Napster users on the night of the first injunction found downloads crawling as peers were scrambling to loot the music warehouses. Consumer preparations for the fall of Napster indicate that many worry that they will have to pay for music downloads in the future.
On the other side of the coin, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is looking for new channels for online music sales that will allow them to capture as much value from their music portfolios as possible. With their music less available, they believe consumers will pay for their recordings on the internet, just as they do with traditional media like tapes and CDs.
The Internet is preparing for the fall of Napster as well. Many DRM providers, AnIdea Corporation included, now make it possible for record labels (or anyone else) to list and sell their music online. Content markets for Music are attached it to tracking, accounting, and billing systems. AnIdea.com makes many of these services free for everybody. Each listing is managed by the music owners, including any promotional materials. Distribution occurs in a manner that finally compensates the music owners for their sales.
The Music Industry and the Internet are constantly evolving under the prevailing winds of the markets and their legal frameworks, and how we acquire music is far from settled. Some things seem clear, though: that music will continue to be protected by copyrights, that people love internet music distribution, and that technology will adapt to fit the markets and the laws.
It is probably just a matter of time before media players come with fingerprinting software that analyses the waveform, generates an ID, and compares it against a public database of waveform IDs. A system like this could be used to apply copyright protection to the files you think you got away with. In other words, the free files you have downloaded for free from Napster might someday require a fee to play. Same file, new price.