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FREE FOR ALL?

Cat Scratch Thiever
Hey Napster, get your greasy paws off my intellectual property.

BY TED NUGENT
Tuesday, March 13, 2001 12:01 a.m.

My younger brother Johnny and I rounded the corner of the vast parking lot outside the concert arena and immediately spotted the greasy hippie with the huge bag slung over his arm. Brothers Nuge looked at each other with a gleam in our rock 'n' roll eyes and stated in unison, like military commandos: "Bogie, 12 o'clock!"

We approached the young man at a steady gait, stepping past his three or four customers. Though I had my hair pulled back tight in a ponytail, he looked confused. Still, we figured he had to recognize me, given that he was selling Ted Nugent T-shirts at a sold-out Ted Nugent concert.

We surrounded him and told him that he could not sell shirts with my name and photograph on them. It was illegal, unfair and unacceptable. At this point Johnny and I yanked the canvas bag of merchandise and cash from his grasp and departed, returning backstage to hand out the cheap imported booty to friends, crew members and charities. I used some as rags to clean my guns.

We relentlessly repeated this across America for years, determined to stop the unjust bootleg merchandising of my copyrighted image. We ran into occasional resistance, but it never deterred me from taking what was rightfully mine. Even on ABC television I faced threats from some punk who thought he was dealing with just another pushover dope-smoking hippie band that he could rip off with impunity. Hell, I hunt grizzly bears with a bow and arrow. Bring it on, greaseballs!

I didn't need anyone to explain to me whether selling or giving away other people's products without their permission was the right thing to do. Common sense is alive and well in America if you're not stoned, drunk, greedy or just plain stupid. To think that anyone could even argue that Napster has the right to give away an artist's product is ridiculous.

Hey, I have a good idea! I'll just stand outside the local grocery store and offer its food free to the public. It doesn't matter if the owner took the risk, pays all the taxes and overhead, struggles with a bureaucratic land-mine field of regulations and laws, invests his warrior work ethic in bucketsful of sweat day after day, and basically busts his butt to provide a quality service and jobs for the community. Hell, no. I'll just make that decision for him, thank you, and give away his products and hard-earned money. Who does he think he is anyway?

The same applies to recording artists. We invest sweat and blood and millions of dollars creating musical products. It takes years of insane sacrifice and grueling tour schedules and intense effort. To think a third party should be allowed to give away our product for zero compensation is brain-dead and un-American.

 

The Recording Industry Association of America attributes a 39% drop in shipments of compact-disk singles in 1999 to this Internet downloading system. Full-length CD sales also dropped dramatically. In the short amount of time Napster has been in front of the courts, its users have grown from a few thousand to more than 50 million. Thank God common sense is still operating in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which recently ruled Napster must stop providing unauthorized music.

Artists--or grocers for that matter--who wish to give away their own merchandise or services as a promotional or marketing scheme can have at it. But on any legal or intellectual level, only that individual can legitimately make the decision. Artists and record companies already give away an enormous amount of free goods. No one outside that business circle should dare to do it for them and expect to get away with it.

Facing a runaway freight train of technology, we in the industry are moving to upgrade the quality of music delivery while also protecting copyrights, intellectual property rights and freedom of speech. With the book and motion-picture industries also susceptible to the sort of pirating Napster encourages, these communities will increasingly have to fight with us if they are to protect their futures.

There is no reason for allowing intellectual property to enrich lives without payment to the artist or business team. I'm just an ol' guitar player, but surely what is fair is fair. I'll leave the mind-boggling technology to the experts, but if I want bread, I'm going to pay the baker.
Mr. Nugent is a guitarist, vocalist and songwriter. SpitFire Records will soon release his latest album, "Full Bluntal Nugity."
 

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