The Internet has become notorious for the frenetic pace at which its enabling technologies engender movements which impact the lives and interests of those who deal in its realm. Nowhere has this been more clear in recent months than when confronting the concept of music on the Web; most particularly, music distributed via the MP3 format. Artists embrace it as the binary Holy Grail, fans revel in its grassroots symbolism, and recording industry execs just want to know how to make it all go away. Read on for more about how these players and the law interact in a Web showdown worthy of the Internet's "Wild Wild West" appellation.
The rapidly advancing technology of the Internet has spawned a plethora of legal entanglements as users explore the limits of the medium. This testing of boundaries has prompted calls from many corners to clearly stake out the perimeter. Not surprisingly, these calls often come from the commercial sector -- those entities which must tread most cautiously in order to protect the omnipresent bottom line. The murky gray waters that comprise the sea of Internet law to date keep many of these swimmers at the shore, clamoring for the legislative lifeguard. From the opposite shore come the individuals, the upstarts, the consumers and artists. They dive in head first, happily splashing around and catcalling the reticent on the shoreline, taunting them -- "Come on in, the water's fine!" When some of the holdouts do take the plunge, the skirmishes begin. This story is played out over and again, with the object of dissension being whatever is the latest, hippest tech fad. The war currently being waged over MP3 is no different.