"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 24 March 2000. Updated every WEEKDAY.

J. B. —

You looked pretty coked up in the meeting where this was discussed, so I'll give you some background.

You don't need to trouble yourself with the details, but "Napster" is a "computer program" that allows "Internet users" to easily trade music via "MP3 files." As someone with a ton of experience dealing with our customers, you already know that they're thieving little weasels who would rob us blind if they could. It should come as no surprise that they're using this Napster thing to swap songs in violation of every copyright we hold. It's the end of the world, J. B. We need to do something, fast.

Napster disclaims any responsibility for all this, of course, saying that it's its users' responsibility to make sure that everything they put into the system is on the legal up-and-up. The songs, unfortunately, never exist on Napster's servers, so we can't raid its offices, find violations, and break a few heads in the process. We estimate that by the end of this quarter, it will actually be easier for ASCAP to stop some schmuck with an acoustic guitar from playing "What's Up" at a neighborhood pig 'n' whistle than for the RIAA to crack down on all the pirate recordings out there.

This, in fact, has been our biggest problem with shutting this nightmare down. We've got a whole division of lawyers working on the situation, but they haven't had much luck because it's hard to get a company to stop not doing something. Raiding the home of every Napster user, while an attractive thought, probably isn't feasible. We've leaned on college administrations to get Napster banned on campuses, but it's been slow going.

Ultimately, we've decided to fight technology with technology. Though our previous forays into the high-tech world have been less than spectacular, I've had the geeks down in R&D put the Boy Band Breeding program on hold to work out some possible solutions. What they've come up with follows.

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Next ... Project Zapster.