I never bothered. Two words: dial-up.
But I understood why it was cool. You could find all kinds of songs that didn't exist in stores. You could turn other people on to your favorite bands, and they could turn you on to theirs. A total love-in. Dig it.
So when Napster's legal troubles began around a year later, they took me by surprise. The idea that their site enabled people to do anything illegal hadn't crossed my mind. The users were just music lovers, sharing music that they owned.
I never thought of it as stealing.
* * *
I'm a pretty honest, law-abiding person. I've never shoplifted. I don't cheat on my taxes. I tip my servers. If a friend told me that she shoplifted, or cheated on her taxes, or stiffed her servers, I would express my disapproval.
And despite all that—despite being a musician who has music for sale—I still can't get all that worked up about people who download music without paying for it.
For one thing, it's not exactly stealing. If you come to a Cinder Bridge gig and lift one of our CDs, then we don't have a copy of that CD anymore and no one else can buy it from us. That's theft. But if you get a bootleg copy off the Internet, we haven't actually lost anything.
Well, we may have lost the income we would have received had you paid for the album. But that assumes you would have paid for the album if you couldn't get it for free. Maybe you would have decided not to.
That doesn't make it right, necessarily. And it certainly doesn't justify a two thousand-song music library consisting entirely of pirated downloads. It just makes it ... different from theft.
This is a complex issue. I don't pretend to have all the answers. On the other hand, I've formed some pretty strong opinions about the RIAA, which believes it does have all the answers.
More on that in our next installment.