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Why all the controversy?
Winamp-The pirate ship
By Russell Kibbee
(more articles from this author)
2000-10-11
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Why has the mp3 world been so explosive lately? It is worse than the Hatfields vs. the McCoys. On one side you have the major labels. On the other side are the consumers and small bands looking for exposure. Peruse this section and find out why this is a red- hot topic from the dorm rooms to the board rooms.

Step 1: Stay out of college-get rich
Back in 1996, a dropout from the University of Utah created a product not only capable of playing compressed music files, but also of "ripping" files on a CD and compressing them into easy to send and share MP3 files.

Step 2: What was this product?
The program was called Winamp. It was a shareware product, meaning that you could freely download the program and pay the developer (Justin Frankel) the money to show your gratification. Soon, everyone wanted one and songs were being ripped and sent to friends all over the world.

Step 3: We're in the money
Soon, the $5 checks for the shareware were pouring into Mr. Frankel. His product was unlike anything else out there. Eventually, the company became so profitable that AOL bought Mr. Frankel's company for $400 million.

Step 4: Big install base for plundering
The MP3 files were everywhere (on people's desktop computers and even laptops equipped with headphones). Illegal music was flying all over the place. Computer geeks would go to sleep with 5 songs and wake up with 50 more on their computers. The major labels did not like this, but as long as it was connected to a computer, they could tolerate it.


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