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Cringely Proposes a Music Sharing Alternative

CowboyNeal posted more than 11 years ago | from the buying-the-power-back dept.

Music 730

WEFUNK writes "The I, Cringely 'Pulpit' column at PBS presents an interesting idea for a new business model to take on the RIAA. He suggests that a publicly traded company could legally and profitably buy a single copy of each record which could then be freely copied and listened to by its shareholders under fair use. His 'Snapster' (Son of Napster) proposal is essentially a digital music co-op that would let shareholders/consumers bring copyrighted material into a quasi-public domain. While fair use and the public domain continue to be lost in our courts and congresses, maybe the capital markets will offer an alternative." While a neat idea, it's doubtful that it'll ever be implemented. Still, it's a good read.

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FP (-1, Funny)

usotsuki (530037) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528263)

Fair use...that'd be so roxor.


Wow this usage seems very fair (2, Insightful)

Yeah-or-something (680196) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528277)

There is no such thing as fair use. Just ask the RIAA.

Re:Wow this usage seems very fair (1)

kaamos (647337) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528296)

you are allowed fair use of copyrights ... that you do not own ... so that can't be theft, right?
The only thing you are allowed to freely use if your wallet ;-)

Re:Wow this usage seems very fair (4, Funny)

whiteranger99x (235024) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528341)

There is no such thing as fair use. Just ask the RIAA.

You got that right, they definitely put the "F-U" in Fair Use! ;)

Re:Wow this usage seems very fair (2, Funny)

archen (447353) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528370)

I donno about that. The musicians feel pretty used, and the RIAA thinks its fair.

How Industrious (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6528278)

Obsessed with stealing music

Maybe you people should spend your time doing something productive, something other than thinking up great ways to STEAL MUSIC.

Why not try making a usable UI for Linux, or a decent piece of office software? Why are you so OBSESSED with STEALING MUSIC?? I DONT GET IT!!

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Great, more Cringley (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6528282)

This guy annoys the hell out of me. He doesn't even know more than the average Slashdotter, and yet, he ejaculates onto the PBS website and every time it gets on here.

What the hell for?

Best Article Ever (2, Interesting)

SUB7IME (604466) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528285)

In my opinion, his idea is brilliant. Create a corporation that is publicly traded, so that everyone has the chance to 'own' rights to every CD. I'd love to see some lawyers' opinions on this.

Re:Best Article Ever (5, Insightful)

Darth Fredd (663620) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528330)

Yes, but remember that Windows server licenses are owned by a corperation, and you can only use it on one computer.

You know those little "by opening this CD you have agreed to.." things? Think a slight modification, here..

Wouldn't be that hard.

Re:Best Article Ever (5, Insightful)

the_quark (101253) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528362)

The ignorance of both business and law displayed in his article is nothing short of breathtaking.

First, he handwaves about going public at $20/share. Maybe in 1999, pal, but not now. You can't just decide to do it, there are significant capitalization requirements, to say nothing of the money the bankers will want for doing the work for you.

But the real guffaw-worthiness of this article is the tremendous misunderstanding of fair use he displays. Number one, it's quite questionable what corporations' fair use rights are - but it's clear that they are less than an individual. Remember They bought 300,000 CDs and made one digital copy of each. That's perfectly legal, under fair use, for you and me. But when a corporation does it for profit (and by definition everything a corporation does is for profit), it's copyright infringement. got pwn3ed by the major record labels for this.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, the traditional test of fair use is, "would it replace a sale?" This clearly would. It's legal for you to make a copy of a CD so you can listen to one and home and one at work, since you won't be listening to both simultaneously. If they wanted to build this system so that only one shareholder could listen to a given piece at one time, they MIGHT be able to squeak through. But try this, and they Major Labels will just laugh all the way to the bank.

Re:Best Article Ever (2, Insightful)

pbox (146337) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528452)

The ignorance of your reply is breathtaking.

1. was not owned by people who were downloding copies.

2. $20/share inital outlay per person can be though of as joining the club. It does not even need to be publicly traded, and the price can be kept fixed.

3. Maybe the intention of the law is "would it replace a sale", however that is not the actual wording, otherwise all those poor souls who got hit by RIAA would use that as an easy defense. "But your honor, I would not have bought that CD I downloaded, it is a buch of crap!"

Re:Best Article Ever (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6528459)

when a corporation does it [copy music] for profit (and by definition everything a corporation does is for profit), it's copyright infringement.

My understanding is you are not paying for a copy but are paying to have your "property" as a shareholder transmitted or copied to another format. If you went to the corporate headquarters, they'd have to let you copy it for free.

Re:Best Article Ever (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6528463)

> If they wanted to build this system so that only one shareholder could listen to a given piece at one time, they MIGHT be able to squeak through. But try this, and they Major Labels will just laugh all the way to the bank.

You bring up an interesting point here. CD rentals are legal in some countries (not in the USA? maybe now!)... and the companies that rent videos and CDs are laughing all the way to the bank. If I recall correctly, in the past the RIAA has attempted to even stop the resale of music CDs (without success).

All you need to really make the one share holder may listen thing work is a parent Corp. that holds thousands of samller penny market Corps. All you have to do is match the number of child Corps. to a number that will match peak listeners... that and sell a companion stream ripper like program.

I think it could be done... legally... profitablly... and in a way that will bring about the demise of the RIAA.

Re:Best Article Ever (5, Interesting)

leviramsey (248057) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528410)

It probably (almost certainly, but IANAL) wouldn't work.

Remember, the corporation and its shareholders are legally separate entities. Thus the shareholders don't own the music (or any rights to it, more properly); they own a company which owns the rights to the music. And since it's doubtful that the RIAA grants a right to rent the music (first sale would not cover renting), the corporation doesn't have the ability to give its shareholders its rights.

In theory, you could do something within the confines of first-sale; it could be implemented as follows:

  • User A has file containing song in their collection.
  • User B wants said file.
  • User B offers to pay User A $0.00 for the file.
  • User A accepts the offer.
  • File is transferred from User A to User B; upon transfer, User A deletes the file

However, there are kinks in that plan; first, it's doubtful that files made by fair-use rights could be incorporated into this (fair-use as it's been understood by the courts only extends to personal copying; as soon as it's transferred, any legitimacy conferred by fair-use is lost). However, files downloaded without taking advantage of fair-use (iTMS for instance) would not have this issue. Then there's the final requirement; in order to qualify for a first-sale defense, the file would have to be deleted from the server after being transferred. This is somewhat difficult to accomplish, even if you could DRM stuff. However, perhaps copying the file which you obtained through this system to another location would be fair-use (and the system might even employ a hash database to prevent further transfers).

Back to the topic. Even if the corporation could rent/sell it to its shareholders, some portion of the actual value of the data would likely be counted as a dividend, or at least income, for the shareholder, who may end up paying taxes on it.

No way man, all the music for free (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6528287)

subj =)

------------------- - Linux in five minutes

I can see it now... (5, Funny)

trudyscousin (258684) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528290)

...the retail price of a CD jumps from $18.99 to $1899.

Re:I can see it now... (1)

descil (119554) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528400)

That's only 100 times as costly. If you have, say, ten million shareholders in your company, you could buy, say, 100,000 CDs for only $1.90 per person, assuming the RIAA didn't find a loophole and make your company very quickly go bankrupt.

I think Cringely just wants this idea because he knows he could buy in and then sell out two days later.

Why not? (1)

hedronist (233240) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528294)

Admittedly, I would want to see a Whole Bunch Of Lawyers(tm) try to rip the idea in to little tiny pieces. But, if they can't easily find a way to sink it, then why the hell not?

I am eargerly waiting to send in my $20 check!

Sales (2, Interesting)

MetalHead666 (532749) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528309)

Interesting, but probably too hard to implement seriously (especially considering the possibilities of legal battles moving to that arena if a share holder shares his/her copy with an unlicensed person). Another aspect is that it would probably hurt sales, if the large companies buy all albums their shareholders are interested in (and take some form of payment from the people, naturally, for the service), then when an artist makes a new album they will know exactly how many copies it will sell, because there are only 4350 companies with shareholders interested in their music...

Uh no. (3, Insightful)

glrotate (300695) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528310)

I think most dl'ers are just going to continue stealing it.

Re:Uh no. (1)

Trelane, the Squire (608266) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528412)

umm... the point is this could be a way to strike down the riaa legally, and get $.50 songs. The RIAA is going to scare most illegal sharers off the net if their strategy works, then where will you be?

not to mention, of course, that your way is illegal.

Re:Uh no. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6528480)

.50 cent *CDs*

Re:Uh no. (2, Interesting)

skajake (613518) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528455)

You mean"

"I think most dl'ers are just going to continue 'copyright infringement'"

Re:Uh no. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6528505)

I think *you* mean

"Most people are going to continue to try to get something for free that wasn't free for the person who produced it to make and their reason for doing so is not some idiotic idea of "information freedom" but pure, simple, base greed."

The only problem is..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6528313)

According to the RIAA anything that's not illegal is you buying an overpriced CD, not reproducing it, and only you listening it. :p

Re:The only problem is..... (1)

Trelane, the Squire (608266) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528453)

sad but true. I wouldn't be surprised to eventually see the riaa do like game consoles and come out with their own 'CD' player: the RiaalPlayer. ;) just like gaming consoles, you'd have to be licensed, or something similar to create media for it.

let's hope a media mogul doesn't read this and actually try it

one word: (5, Informative)

interiot (50685) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528314)

Didn't get in trouble even though they owned one CD of all the albums they were electronically distributing? And the judge still declared that illegal...

Re:one word: (5, Informative)

modecx (130548) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528338)

Right. But the people they distributed to were not shareholders of the company. That's the point here.

It's a funny idea, but ultimately it's a silly one. It's the surest cause for the legislators to take away fair use, or change it so it's not so fair.

Re:one word: (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6528352)

I think the difference would be that the new company would only distribute the music to shareholders. Taken as a whole shareholders are the owners of the company. If they own the company they also own the company's assets, i.e. the music. Thus, the people obtaining the music from the company to some extent share ownership of the music they download.

No such relationship existed at The people downloading the software were customers of, not owners.

Re:one word: (3, Insightful)

leviramsey (248057) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528496)

Taken as a whole shareholders are the owners of the company. If they own the company they also own the company's assets, i.e. the music. Thus, the people obtaining the music from the company to some extent share ownership of the music they download.

However, there is still a distinction between the assets of the corporation and the assets of the shareholders. The assets of the corporation do not become the assets of the shareholders until the corporation liquidates, and then the shareholders are last in line (as various governments, followed by those who are owed money by the corporation have first crack at the assets). Even then, each shareholder would get it on a pro-rata basis. If the corporation bought 50,000 CDs and had 5,000 shares outstanding, you would ultimately be able to get 10 CDs for each share (assuming no one was ahead of the shareholders in this example) you held, and you would be the only shareholder to get each particular CD.

public domain? (1)

domovoi (657518) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528322)

And how long would Snapster hold copyright? Same as the RIAA/MPAA? The bigger issue, for me, is to see these things released to the public domain after a reasonable time (here, death+70 is not reasonable). Sure, it'd be great to have legal access to these under whatever conditions--no argument there. I'm thinking long term, though.

Nothing about this proposal would change the SOP: the Disneys of the world snarfing up and then essentially blackholing characters, songs, lyrics and the like. That's the biggest problem that exists now, imo, and while this proposal is interesting, it does nothing to address the problem.

Let me get this straght... (1)

FosterKanig (645454) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528324)

If I own stock in a company that owns the rights to, or I don't know, KFC's chicken, I have the right to that recipe? If they want to give that info out?

Re:Let me get this straght... (2, Insightful)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528500)

If I own stock in a company that owns the rights to, or I don't know, KFC's chicken, I have the right to that recipe? If they want to give that info out?

The thing is, you become a part of the "they". If 51% of the shares are voted to do something, then it is so. So, if you ever get 51% of the company, it's your call and yours alone. (And, at that point you get to stack the board of directors with people who agree with you...) If a bunch of people who agree with you combine to make 51%, that works too.

Cringley's company of course would have that trap door. As a publicly traded company, they'd always be subject to a hostile takeover by the pro-RIAA interests...

CleanFilms avoids MPAA this way already.. (5, Interesting)

doowy (241688) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528328) and others like it lost-out when MPAA said it was illegal for them to edit the copyrighted material and distribute it (by rental or sale) to 'customers'. They've since operated by not 'distributing to customers' but by 'sharing with co-owners'.

Essentially they operate as a co-operative. On the surface, it is the same as paying a membership fee - but on paper it is a different story (i.e. Snapster would be just like Napster on the surface, but largely different on paper).

Here's a snip from their about page [] :

is it legal to edit movies?
Yes. CleanFilms is a Co-operative rental club. All subscribers to our service become members of the Co-op. The Co-op collectively purchases original, unedited DVD movies then has them edited - always maintaining a 1 to 1 ratio of edited and non-edited originals.

As owners of the original, unedited movies, the Co-op has the right to edit out content that is objectionable to its members - similar to how you might press mute to avoid hearing objectionable language today. Accordingly, you must subscribe as a member of the rental club before you can rent edited movies.

Thats the hard way of doing it! (1)

El (94934) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528406)

Why not provide a DVD player with two drives; put a store bought DVD in one, and an "edit" list in the other. Software looks at the edit list and figures out what scenes/words to omit. Surely a bunch of pointers into frames in a copyrighted movie doesn't infringe on the copyright for that movie, does it?

It's been done (4, Insightful)

El (94934) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528329)

They already have a public corporation that allows many users to share ownership of a copyrighted work. It's called a "library".

Re:It's been done (2, Insightful)

NeoSkandranon (515696) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528385)

I never paid to get into a library. Nor do i have the illusion that I own anything inside of one. Being able to borrow books to read is different than everyone being entitled to a free copy. Namely, in that in a library there is STILL only X number of books, so *everyone* still can't have one

Re:It's been done (5, Interesting)

El (94934) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528428)

I never paid to get into a library.

You've never paid taxes, part of which go to fund libraries? Or you've never gotten a library card, which usually has a nominal fee? Gee, if nobody pays for libraries, I wonder where they get the money to build them, staff them, and fill them with copyrighted material...

Re:It's been done (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6528437)

You never directly paid to borrow from a public library. However, you try borrowing from a private library (e.g. a university library) if you're not authorised/paid up.

Re:It's been done (0)

pestilence4hr (652767) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528438)

I never paid to get into a library.

Forwarded to

Re:It's been done (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528402)

Um not really. A library cannot just print a dozen copies of a book just because it bought one copy.

What this dude is proposing is a company buys the *rights* to the music, then lets the shareholders listen to it.

The problem is, the rights to a single song may range from 1000$ for a small band to 100,000$ or more.

So exactly how is this company going to afford to buy even say 40% of all music published each year?


Re:It's been done (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6528491)


Re:It's been done (2, Interesting)

KRL (664739) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528408)

Yeah right... do a little digging in the past and find how many book publishers have tried to close librarys down. The only reason they haven't is because librarys are a fairly sacred institution.

Try doing this with a publicly traded company and you'll be crucified by the copyright holders.

Re:It's been done (1, Informative)

pestilence4hr (652767) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528409)

It's called a "library".

You can't legally copy entire works from the library, you can only use the original and return it. But nice try.

If you are in need of confirmation of this, try going into a music library and, in front of the clerk, photocopy a symphony. I guarantee you will be stopped.

really? (1)

YllabianBitPipe (647462) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528426)

am I breaking the law when I borrow a cd from the library, rip it to my computer and then return the cd? If so, my bad, I better stop doing that right away (wink).

Even better solution (1)

Sick Boy (5293) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528331)

How about some enterprising cracker writes a virus that spreads out and shares the mp3 files of the victims. Keep the client to surf this network seperate.

You don't get control of how much bandwidth and files you share, but you get plausable deniability. Hey, it's a virus - and your virus checker was just out of date. Shucks.

I think the problem is... (2, Interesting)

edog1203 (193278) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528333)

Some services such as ConsoleClassix [] allow users to join a co-op for the purposes of playing classic video game ROMs... but only one copy can be played by a user at once for each copy of the game the co-op owns.

Therein lies the problem with Cringely's proposal. If I split the cost of a $20 CD with a friend (or a million friends), we can both listen to it, just not at the same time (legally).


Re:I think the problem is... (1)

ThatDamnMurphyGuy (109869) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528440)

we can both listen to it, just not at the same time (legally).

Wha? That's like saying headphone jack splitters are illegal. I can't listen to my cd in my car with someone else there, regardless of if they are a co-owner or not? Of course not. That would never fly in court.

So, fair use would be me being allowed to play a song in the company of others when they don't own the CD? Good.

OK, now we're 10 feet apart with a long headphone cable.

OK, now we're 5 miles apart using a CAT5 cable (and only THAT person can listen. Not everyone on the net)?

What's the diff?

So crazy it just might work (2, Interesting)

Trelane, the Squire (608266) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528335)

Snapster has to be a public company. It would have its IPO as soon as possible after all those CDs have been delivered. It must be a public company right from the start of operations. Say Snapster goes public on NASDAQ at $20 per share. The IPO sells one million shares (10 percent of the company) netting $20 million minus underwriting fees. So almost from the beginning, Snapster has millions in the bank and a market capitalization of $200 million. What is critical here for the business success is not the price per share but the broadest possible ownership of shares. But the way those additional shares would be sold would be through stock splits, not supplemental offerings. This means that early investors would benefit greatly from being early investors and the Snapster founders would benefit most of all.
wow. This is like a legal napster plus pyramid scheme all rolled into one. I hope whoever starts it has offshore accounts. (or creates it offshore)
Each Snapster share carries ownership rights to those 100,000 CDs. You see, Snapster is a kind of mutual fund, so every investor is a beneficial owner of all 100,000 CDs. Each share also carries the right to download backup or media-shifting copies for $0.05 per song or $0.50 per CD, that download coming from a separate company we'll call Snapster Download that is 100 percent owned by Snapster. With one million co-owners each downloading one CD per month, gross revenue would be $6 million per year. If they download an average of 10 CDs per month revenue grows to $60 million per year. At these download volumes and with the very low cost of running the service, the $200 million market cap is justified even at the lower sales level. At the $60 million sales level, the share price ought to rise. Now grow the business to its logical size of 60 million users. At 10 CDs per user per year, Snapster download revenue would be $3.6 billion or about a quarter the size of the current recording industry, which it would effectively replace. With 90 percent profit margins, Snapster would be making $3.2 billion per year in profit. Based on a modest price-to-earnings ratio of 10-to-1 (I am choosing this low number because of the obvious legal issues involved in this business) Snapster's market capitalization is now up to $33 billion, which is more than any current record company. Investors who paid $20 at the IPO will now find each of those shares worth $33,000, which is comparable to Microsoft or Dell or Cisco in success except that Snapster would do this all in one year.

Interestingly, $33 billion represents approximately the total market capitalization of all the major record companies, which we'd have to expect would be driven down by the success of Snapster. So Snapster would be a transfer of wealth from current owners of record company shares to owners of new Snapster shares.

this could replace the riaa. let's just hope if someone actually follows through with this it doesn't become somehow as bad as the riaa...

Say WHAT? (2, Informative)

binaryDigit (557647) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528346)

How can this even come close to working? If the corp purchases the cd, the corp, which is considered an entity in and of itself, is bound by the copyright. The shareholders of that corp have absolutely no rights to the cd's at all (except maybe at liquidation time). Just like having shares in IBM doesn't mean I can take advantage of ANY of their assets. This idea, while an interesting fancy, is just that.

Assumptions (4, Insightful)

s20451 (410424) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528349)

This can only work assuming:

1. Most people who share music are willing to pay for music.

2. Most people who share music are ethical, and won't give the music to non-shareholders.

I think both assumptions are questionable. (Note: if you share music, I'm not saying you are a freeloader and immoral. But is everyone like you?)

A shortfall (2)

AntiOrganic (650691) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528356)

United States copyright law allows you to make one backup copy of the work, for private use. So if someone downloads it, they'd have to be the only person downloading it, and once it's downloaded, it would have to be deleted off of the servers. I don't seem to recall anything about group owners being able to make an unlimited number of backup copies.

Hey, that's my idea! (1)

i_am_nitrogen (524475) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528357)

I had the same idea a couple months ago, except it was about DVD's. I was talking to my dad about it! I have a witness! A DVD co-op where people buy DVD's and share them with each other. Kind of like a private library. You have to pay a fee to get access to DVD's, and you are rewarded by a fee reduction for sharing your own DVD's, plus maybe priority access to DVD's you've submitted.

Oh yeah, the fee pays for more DVD's. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6528373)

All the fee money goes to either buying new DVD's or extra copies of popular DVD's, and maintaining the library and tracking systems.

Owning is a better idea (5, Interesting)

bradintheusa (458969) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528358)

This idea is very flawed. A much better idea would be a netflix type CD rental, except they keep the CD in escrow for you and you own it rather than rent it. CDs could be bought or sold on the open 'virtual' market. You only get remote access to it. If you want physical access you pay for shipping. That remote access can be in a number of fomats from ISO,WAV,MP3 etc.

Once you have owned the CD for a day, sell it to someone else and erase your fair use copy. Next time you want to listen to it buy it again and sell it again.

Just like Cringely send some of those IPO shares to


Re:Owning is a better idea (1)

YllabianBitPipe (647462) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528469)

Why not just copy the netflix model but have it be for CDs. Charge something like 10 bucks a month subscription. Of course it's a fair bet people, once they get their cd mailed to them, *might* be ripping 'em, but hey that's the customers deal not the company.

I'd sign up for this.

Re:Owning is a better idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6528479)

That remote access can be in a number of fomats from ISO,WAV,MP3 etc.

ISO can't handle multi-track CDs. You hafta use a different format, like cue/bin.

Quantum time splitting multiple access database (1)

RichMan (8097) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528360)

The "corporation" really has only the need for 1 central copy with appropriate backups. Expect an argument about what constitutes an appropriate back up.
Even if everyone in the corporation is allowed their own "backup" copy of the entire music archive the concept of copyright and backups will mean that 1 copy is viewed as the access copy. All other copies will be "inactive" backups.
The "active" token can be passed around quickly, but does not solve the concept of multiple simultaneuos access to the same song.
Simply drop the concept of access control altogether and call the whole thing a distributed multiple access data base and get the RIAA to define the concept of simultaneuos access down to the quantum time level.

this is nonsense (2, Insightful)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528363)

The immediate disclaimers prevent this under personal use under federal regualaltion yaday etc,

Very Clever! (1, Insightful)

wuice (71668) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528364)

Unethical businessfolk have always used the idea of incorporating as a way to shield themselves personally from the legal liabilities of their companies. How clever and ironic now that the same institution which shields these people from legal liability, the same institutions which have subverted our legal system through the judicious (pardon the pun) use of money and lawyers, now could stand to be used to shield file traders from this corporate-driven legal system gone mad.

This is a strange idea.... (3, Insightful)

YllabianBitPipe (647462) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528367)

While on the surface it seems amusing enough there's some things I don't totally get, maybe someone else can explain where I'm wrong...

First off, owning company stock is not necesarially the same thing as wanting to own the company's product. I might want to own the product but not take on any of the risk of owningthe stock. Likewise, there are plenty of companies I'd own the stock for only for the point of making money, not because I want to personally want to use their products (stock in a pharmecutical company comes to mind)

related to this is the idea that there will be tons of people who want to own tons of stock for the point of being rich, namely the insiders or the investment bankers that want to make money off the IPO. Typically a large amount of shares of any company is held by institutions, not individuals. This idea sounds like he wants stock to be held by all the customers which totally goes against the way investments are usually held. I don't think the institutions would like this idea one bit.

Then, what happens to people who own shares of the stock via a mutual fund? People who own the stock that don't even know about the service? Or people who want to download the music but don't have any means of getting shares of stock because they can't open a brokerage for whatever reason (bad credit)?

Lastly, what happens at the shareholder meeting?

Maybe I just don't get this idea, but to sum up, the product / service a company provides is (and should be) totally separate from its stock.

Archives for CD Owners? (1)

Kane Skalter (636517) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528368)

The author of the article mentioned that you should be the owner of a CD in order to download. Didn't try that with Beam-It and get forced to lock up 99% of their archives? It was a good idea, forcing you to prove your ownership by having the program read your CD and then allow you to stream the MP3's, but alas, the Rich Ignorant A$$h0l3s of Amerika didn't see it that way...

Licenses (3, Interesting)

PiGuy (531424) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528369)

There's a major (future) flaw in this:

If I buy stock in a company (even the one I work for), that doesn't mean that I can freely use any software that they buy from another vendor. Most software comes with per-seat licenses, not per-company. What's to stop music companies from just packaging only a single-user license in a CD? Replace the word 'music' with 'software' in this scheme, and it all falls apart.

What about software? Or Licenses? (1)

LamerX (164968) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528372)

Could the same thing be applied to software? Probably not because of the license you agree to. What if this provokes the RIAA to set up music in a license format?

"By opening this package you agree to the terms of the Listener Licence Agreement on the back of the package"

Thereby you would only be licensed to listen to this CD on a certain device and don't have a license to copy this CD. Oh well It was nice while we had our rights...

Don't let the cat out of the bag (1)

felonious (636719) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528376)

They should have done this instead of letting the cat out of the bag. No doubt people visit /. to get a feel for what's happening but they will read or hear about this idea and slip it into the drm. At least start this idea up and once the RIAA sues just let it go back and forth through the courts for years until this thing is settled.

I cannot think of one company or individual excluding sadam or OBL that is more despised currently. The RIAA is obviously done caring about how people view them and I can finally see users are starting to turn on them in droves. They really think we need to buy music so badly that we won't stop no matter what they do. They have obviously underestimated the American public.

Play your games, buy laws, sue people into financial ruin but understand your industry will not go unpunished. Your days are numbered as are the days of ripping off the artists who are on your labels. Your industry's death may be slow but the writings on the wall and there's not a law you can pass or enough users for you to sue to save it.

Kiss it all goodbye for you are an archaeic industry who has over stayed it's welcome in the country where freedom of choice matters and consumers ultimately decide what stay and what goes.

RIAA you're gone....

Cringley lacks basic understanding of economics (4, Insightful)

El (94934) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528379)

Napster had 60 million users with a membership price of free (many of which were no doubt duplicates) therefore a service with a membership price of $20 should have an equal number of users? What part of "supply and demand" did you miss, Robert?

Why do we need to make a bogus corp (4, Insightful)

Goalie_Ca (584234) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528380)

Is there any reason why we can't go out and buy a Sony share or a Warner share???

They own the rights to begin with!

Yep that'll work... For about three seconds. (4, Interesting)

themaddone (180841) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528383)

I can see it now, Snapster starts up, buys a few CDs, and all of a sudden every new CD that is bought comes with a draconian Microsoft-style license which explictly states that you may not play the CD on more than one audio system at a time, without the express written consent of the RIAA, which comes only comes with an unrealistic royalty fee. If you don't like it, you can return the CD to the record store. Or, not.

Unfortunately, it's going to be a long struggle before the Record Industry is forced to submit to the fact that recorded music is becoming an economic public good -- because of pratically infinite distribution (at the cost of bandwidth and storage), the good has become non-rivalrous. This does not mean music will disappear, but it does mean that it will not be profitable for a music company to distribute CDs.

Once the RIAA is forced to accept that, and takes the huge accompanying profit cut, their real business will be the promotion and distribution of the music itself -- it will lower its overhead by allowing P2P-style downloads (let the consumers give up their bandwidth), and will profit by sponsoring artists tours.

The downside is that record stores will, for the most part, go out of business. Were that there was another way to save our slave-wage friends who are knowledgable, but in every war, there are casualties.

But sorry, Cringely -- Snapster won't work for long. The fight for free music will be much longer than we hope.

Stop Me If You've Heard This One... (0, Offtopic)

tds67 (670584) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528391)

Hilary Rosen, former President of the Recording Industry Association of American, walks into a fast-food restaurant. A twenty-eight year old male employee of the restaurant recognizes her as she places her order.

"Say, you're Hilary Rosen, aren't you?" he asks. "You used to work for the R.I.A.A."

"That's right," Hilary says, more than a little surprised. "Ten years ago."

The employee's face becomes sad. "Eight years ago, I was in college and getting pretty good grades," he moans. "But then the R.I.A.A. sued me for downloading a few songs off the Internet. I settled out of court, but had to quit college and get a job to pay the money agreed to in the settlement."

Hilary is unmoved. "That is too bad," she says, "But the law is the law."

Another employee, an old woman, hears the conversation and walks over to join in. "My grandson used my computer to download music," the old woman says with sadness in her eyes. "The R.I.A.A. sued me, too, even though I didn't know anything about the Internet. Now I have to work here to pay the settlement money."

Hilary doesn't flinch. "That is unfortunate," she says, "but after all, the law is the law." The old woman shuffles away.

At this point Hilary decides it would be better to get her food somewhere else and walks toward the door. A thin and attractive woman in her early thirties enters through the door as Hilary approaches it.

Hilary is pleasantly surprised. The woman sold a million records eleven years ago while signed up with one of the record companies the R.I.A.A. represents, and was famous for a while. They had met at parties on more than one occasion.

After exchanging greetings, the two talk about old times. After a while Hilary, pressed for time, excuses herself. "It was very nice talking with you, my dear," Hilary says, "but I'm in a hurry and I have to go now." Thinking of the two unhappy workers behind the counter, and their probable dislike of people connected to music, Hilary adds, "By the way, I don't recommend that you get anything to eat here."

"Oh, you don't have to tell me about that," the former pop star says, "I work here."

Re:Stop Me If You've Heard This One... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6528443)

I think a better ending would have been someone taking a paring knife and cutting Hilary Rosen stem to stern. Only in this fictional account, of course. It'd be illegal to actually advocate violence against corporate scum.


This is absurd (4, Insightful)

Temporal (96070) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528393)

Really, people, step back and look at what we're talking about here. Who cares if it is technically legal? Clearly it is a loophole if it is legal, and that hole will quickly be closed by lawmakers.

The other point is, why would you want to do this? Does no one here understand the basic concepts of economics? If people don't pay for music, there won't be any music -- or, at least, there will be very little. It costs money to produce. The artists need to eat. Sure the RIAA is evil, but two wrongs don't make a right. How could anyone seriously consider a plan like this without realizing that it is wrong?

Why do you people believe that you are entitled to free (or absurdly cheap) music? If you're unhappy with the RIAA, don't buy their music, but don't steal it either. You have no right to use something that someone else spent time and money to produce if you are not willing to use it under their terms.

Re:This is absurd (5, Insightful)

BandwidthHog (257320) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528432)

If people don't pay for music, there won't be any music

Yeah, 'cause nobody writes or records music for any reason other than profit.

Maybe if music weren't a multi-billion dollar business, true musicians would again gain prominence.

Re:This is absurd (2, Insightful)

Nasarius (593729) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528503)

Hyperbole. Just because someone wants to make a living by recording music doesn't mean that they're driven by profit.

Re:This is absurd (4, Insightful)

El (94934) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528498)

If people don't pay for music, there won't be any music

Damn straight! If not for copyright, Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms would never have published any music, so none of their music would be around today, in the public domain!

What? You say there was no such thing as copyright when they were composing? Er... never mind!

If a corporation has the same rights as a person.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6528401)

Remind me... how did that Nike case turn out?

I a corporation is a corpus made up on it's individual stock holders, then we just might see the advent of right ear, left ear licensing of content. ...the real trick, of course, is controling the value of the stock (assumeing it is a valid loophole) and verifying that the client the content is being distributed to is indeed a "stock holder". I guess a bit of PKI magic and use of already passed legislation (digial signature laws) can solve the verification issue.

OK, so the worse case scenario is that every song becomes a listed corp (oh, that's the tricky bit... getting listed; otherwise, it's penny stocks for everyone). What's to keep a parent company from being a stock holder of each and every song and then circumventing the entire thing buy providing "one stop shopping". Market dilution at it's worst...

Cringly of all people (1)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528403)

Fucking loon. After all his rabid crap. Lets see him go OJS(Open Journalistic Source), work for free and distribute it to whatever fool is willing to purchase

Not Fair Use (5, Informative)

Laur (673497) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528415)

I'm surpirsed he said that his lawyer friends found no problem with this. From the earlier /. interview with the DOJ IP Lawyers, Question #7:

The doctrine of fair use was originally adopted by judges ruling in early copyright cases. Ultimately, Congress incorporated the doctrine into the Copyright Act of 1976, where fair use is now codified at Section 107 of Title 17 of the U.S. Code. In creating section 107, Congress listed four factors to be considered in determining whether a use is fair or not:

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

These factors are essentially the same factors that had been used over the years by judges, and Congress's stated intent was to preserve the fair use doctrine as it had evolved. However, as many courts have pointed out over the years, whether something constitutes fair use is very fact-specific. It is difficult to craft a clear, bright-line rule that explains which particular uses of a work are fair use and which are infringement. In short, the exact parameters of fair use are often determined based on the facts of specific cases.

Just from a quick look Cringely's idea, while novel, seems to violate several of the 4 criteria. This would be copyright infringement for comercial gain on a massive scale. No way any judge would believe that this falls under the intent of fair use.

What a bozo (4, Insightful)

curtlewis (662976) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528416)

Cringely has always struck me as a moron.

A simple perusal of copyright laws would show anyone with half a brain that what he proposes is illegal.

Fair use allows for the end user to make a copy for PERSONAL use. Not corporate use, not public use, not any other use. Personal, baby.

Survey says....


Wheres the beef? (5, Insightful)

Sogol (43574) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528419)

"Figure $100,000 for the download system"

Whatever. Considering the average mp3 @ 192kbps
is 4MB x 100,000 mp3's = approximately 390GB served to a large user base. For $100,000.

This guy may have ran his idea by some lawyers, but he didn't ask anyone here...

And there's room for growth (1)

Gherald (682277) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528420)

So once Snapster begins to get profitable with music it starts buying copies of all ebooks, movies, and software...

But then there is the problem of license agreements. The RIAA could just take a page from M$ and start issuing CD licenses on a per-stereo basis. Hell, they even have a sort of "Product Activation" system with DRM. I guess that would pretty much seal their fate though.

error-Fair use (2, Redundant)

linuxislandsucks (461335) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528430)

People you forget Fair Use only applies if you do not in any way make money off of the copy..

So Cringely is quite wrong in this concept..

Now a non profit org that gives a used music cd for someone to use in exchange for another music cd fromtha tperson..would probably be very legal..:)

Re:error-Fair use (1)

Gherald (682277) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528470)

Yeah, I was thinking (even before I read the article) that we could start up IMLA (the Internet Music Library of America) and everyone would donate all their CDs.

Then we could have some sort of automatic checkout system that keeps track of how many people are playing a song at any given time, and make sure the library has enough donated CDs to back it up.

There would be a bit of a wait on new releases, just like a brick and mortar library.

It would have to make money than RIAA (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528434)

Business model A is "better" than business model B iff A($)>B($)

An even better idea... (2)

GeeDog (536808) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528436)

What if you just had an library of every piece of music ever made and allowed only one person to check it out at a time? It works for No copying of CDs, effectively eliminating the copyright issue entirely, and it would allow users to sample music to their heart's content. Have a search engine for genre, etc., etc. and you'd be all set.

about a week and it'll be illegal (1)

jonathanbearak (451601) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528441)

IANAL, but suppose this will work - that owning one 10 millionth of a company can give me such rights to their assets - how long would it take for the laws to be revised?

This wouldn't just affect the music industry - it could be used on tv shows, movies, books, magazines, software, and anything else I haven't thought of; the concept is no different when applied to any of those things.

Were this legal, it would devastate our economic infrastructure. And, even if it would work, for these reasons ... fastest new law ever.

(And, in any case, were this only applicable to the RIAA, and, I suppose, a "Good Thing" to many slashdot readers, it would be struck down by corporate lobbying alone.)

cute idea, but how about this one: (1)

Sodade (650466) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528444)

Me and all of my friends form a "co op." We all agree to buy CDs and trade them amongst ourselves. Not on a public P2P connection - maybe something simple (unless you have a linksys) like ftp. Maybe a password protected web site with links that we dynamically add to our local host.
The trick is, I don't let joe sixpack know about it - or any anonymous surfer. Let's see the RIAA get me now.
ummm - gee - that's what I was doing in '98.

As a Microsoft stockholder... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6528451)

Somehow, I doubt you could use this brilliant legal framework to install even a single unlicensed copy of Windows even if you are a shareholder of Microsoft. Copyright is copyright. What applies to music applies to software.

Open Letter to the Media Industry (2, Interesting)

hankaholic (32239) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528456)

Something that didn't make the cut for story submission...

I have been watching morbidly as the RIAA tries to make felons out of normal people. I am disgusted by these tactics, and it saddens me that the United States government would even momentarily entertain the thought of fining or jailing people for wanting ownership of that which gives America a cultural identity.

We don't all have common backgrounds, or live in similar situations. What ties Americans together as a nation is a longing for freedom, and the music that provides our identity as a generation, or as a nation. It is along this line of thinking that I wrote the following, and I would appreciate constructive comment on it.

We are not criminals!

We are not criminals. We are the proud citizens of these United States of America, and we want our culture back. For too long the music industry has branded us criminals -- thieves who would fight to take what is not ours, unwilling to support those who influence our lives and shape our culture, our national self-image. Yet there is no sign of the media calling off its plan to define and control our culture.

The music industry claims to have the interests of artists in mind while persecuting those who would attempt to make free certain parts of our culture. With the belief that work should be compensated fairly it is self-evident that artists deserve fair compensation for their work. However, the music industry routinely uses the "work make for hire" clause of the Copyright Act of 1976 to rob artists of their right to profit from their own creations by working with whichever publisher they choose.

If the music industry holds fair compensation in high regard, perhaps they could consider a business model in which an author retains ownership of her own works. If they are unable to fairly compensate artists, it is not the fault of the consumer. Business does not exist in a vacuum, and it is unfair to produce legislation which aims to preserve a monopolistic industry's position without significant consumer benefit. We want the right to experience the music of our lives at will without being forced to use our dollars to vote for the music industry's dominance.

While the popular media industries demonize citizens whose lives are most strongly tied to their products, they are fighting hard to retain their status as the group solely responsible for driving American culture. These self-proclaimed owners of our national identity strive to ensure that our lives are pervaded with their music, their movies, their values. They force their media into our lives; billing movies and albums as not just mere entertainment, but "events" which will affect our lives. One can hardly watch television or a film or listen to the radio without being subjected to mainstream music. Yet rather than rejoice and celebrate their successes they cry out at the realization that culture is a hard thing to bottle.

We do not consider it fair that the media surround us with the same sounds and images, over and over, yet we are criminalized for trying to integrate them into our culture. We have a right to our culture, and to not be regarded as criminals for demanding ownership.

A company cannot own a common term; trademark laws are such that trademark owners must take action to prevent their trademarks from falling into common usage, lest they become public-domain terms. The curious lack of a similar concept in the media domain means that our lives can be immersed in elements which become part of our cultural vocabulary, yet current law dictates that most of us will die before gaining ownership of our cultural identities.

We want ownership of the media that pervades our lives.

Well, that's it, folks. If I had bandwidth I'd turn it into a petition of sorts, but as it is all I can do is put it up here for comment, in hopes that somebody else will be inspired to take some action.

Please do comment -- I'd like to hear what people have to say.

Re:Open Letter to the Media Industry (2, Informative)

hankaholic (32239) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528511)

This is also available at [] . I'd like to retain all copyright, at least until somebody actually expresses enough interest in doing something with it to let me know ;-)

Why go to the trouble? (1)

Dunark (621237) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528460)

Can a company that makes a product dictate the price a retailer must charge when selling it? If not, how is this idea better than (for example) Blockbuster buying a pile of DVD's and then renting them out very cheaply, maybe even for free? Now, Blockbuster probably wouldn't do such a thing, but a co-op "video store" could.

This might be a helluva lot less complicated than any arrangement that involves issuing stock.

Fair use = non-commercial (1)

sdmartin101 (601186) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528466)

IANAL, but I have always heard "fair use" glossed in terms of "non-commerical use". RXC's plan sounds pretty darn commercial to me.

BTW, did anyone else think that the second paragraph made him sounds like a total crackpot?

another idea...that forgets the artist (2, Insightful)

jorr (621095) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528476)

Every idea or discussion I hear seems to always forget about the artist.

So under this plan, if an independent artist (pays their own recording, cd pressing, etc) has their disc bought for $14, is lucky enough that just one single is downloaded 100,000 times at $0.05/download, then $5,000.00 is made and then artist only receives (maybe) profit off of a $14 sale. If that is not motivation for artists to side with the RIAA I don't know what could do it.

Oh, the love of music (1)

beaverfever (584714) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528478)

Why are people who want pop music (I said 'want', not 'need', because nobody needs music or pop entertainment) willing to go to such great lengths to get entertainment for free and, if they had their way and nobody paid for entertainment, drive their favourite artists, writers and musicians to bankruptcy, along with the entire entertainment industry, which is supposedly reviled by so many, yet so deeply integrated into the lives of and desperately clung to by those who seem to despise it so much?

Please note - this whole issue revolves around entertainment


If you're going to fight against corporate evil, why not fight for something that really matters? Something that might make a meaningful difference and improvement to your life, as well as an improvement in quality of society as a whole.

Fair Use? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6528483)

If you want to see a nice example of fair use, check this out [] .

Another option I have thought about (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6528485)

is why if the cast of Friends can be paid a million dollars an episode, why can't music channels fork over a good deal of cash to bands that bring in a lot of viewership. If the band was a big enough draw, they could make quite a bit of money this way and it wouldn't matter if their songs were traded for free or not.

I'm also surprised more corporations haven't just paid bands to make songs that would be given away free from their web sites as promotions. I think a band could make some good money and some company could get a lot of traffic if they did something like this. A lot of car commercials have cool music and I never go to the web sites to look at the cars, but if I knew I could go to the web site and download that cool song...

Between these options and the money artist get when their songs are played on the radio, it looks like they could come up with a way the artists could get paid and the songs still be "free."

Of course the RIAA would hate all of these ideas, but if the artist is getting paid and music is free, everyone but the RIAA is happy.


Even better--FREE LUNCH! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6528487)

Why not go one step further and just buy stock in all RIAA and MPAA companies. Heck, set up a mutual fund. Clearly if you own the RIAA and MPAA they can't hurt you. Right...?

Let's go even further and never pay electricity or phone bills by purchasing stock in the electricity and telecom companies. Free lunch--if you buy stock in McDonalds!

Those Wilshire 5000 total market index funds are much more valuable than I thought! I never have to pay for anything again because I own everything!

Cringley's always been a dumbass.

Bad idea... (1)

Nucleon500 (628631) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528490)

I think that's a really bad idea. Face it, the RIAA all but owns the government, and if something like this became popular, they would have an excuse for removing fair use from the copyright laws. They've already managed to remove fair use via legally protected technological measures, but at least it still exists in theory. Until we abuse it, that is.

Reductio Ad Absurdum (2, Insightful)

meta-monkey (321000) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528495)

What's our goal here? I mean, do we really want all information freely downloadable and available anytime, no fees, no copyrights, no nothing?

We have two extremes here.

  • 1) The Disney worldview, where everything is closed and controlled forever. You will be paying royalties everytime you whistle "It's a Small World" until the year 3029.
  • 2) The "Everything I can copy is free" worldview, like what Cringely describes in this article. One copy is made, and then anybody is free to copy it forever.

Do you really think #2 is the right answer? Don't give me the standard lines about "music sharing increases record sales." Sure, it might, right now, in the limited sense it's going on. Okay, what if copying anything you want is legal. /.'ers have told me before that they think it's ridiculous that somebody can own a pattern of bits. Don't argue semantics about "ownership." I'm talking about control here. How something is used, how it is reproduced, etc. So, nobody can control an idea, nobody can control a piece of music, nobody can control a movie.

A studio spends $100 million dollars making a great movie. Last night I watched Gangs of New York. Fantastic...amazing...Scorsese is a fucking genius. I don't know how much it cost to make, but I'd imagine a shit-ton of money. So, they spend all this money, use all this talent, and equipment, and employ all of these people. The master copy is made. Immediately, somebody gets their hands on it, makes a copy, and puts it on the Internet. Everybody and their brother downloads it. Somebody copies it onto DVDs and sells it for $3 + shipping. How does the studio make money?

Don't tell me it's off ticket sales because people want to see it on the big screen...unless they own all the theaters, it won't do any good. I'll open up a theatre, buy the DVD for $3, and charge $4 for a ticket to see it on the big screen, then charge $8 for popcorn.

Is this the world we want? How will artists make money? Will it all be ads and product placements? Should Daniel Day Lewis have to say "Drink Pepsi" after every stabbing?

There should be a happy medium between options 1 and 2. So, what is it? Should there simply not be big-budget movies anymore, because the idea of "owning the bit pattern on the DVD is nonsensical?"

Cringley on crack (1)

El (94934) | more than 11 years ago | (#6528517)

By Cringley's logic, if me and 17 friends each chip in $1 for a CD, we should each be allowed to make a copy of it by "fair use", since we're all co-owners. Yeah, right... that'll fly in court...
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Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

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"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>