Home Page -> Commentary -> 2 October 2000 (Olympics/Napster)

Comment of the Fortnight
2 October 2000

The Olympics

I didn't watch any of the Olympics. NBC (the National Broadcasting Company) had exclusive rights to the Olympic broadcast here in the United States in 1996, and they did a horrible job. They would spend four minutes showing you a profile of some athlete, telling you about all the hardships he or she had to overcome, and then show the athlete in competition for only thirty seconds. It was truly disgusting.

The day after the Olympics started, I tuned in to a local talk show, and one viewer reported that, in one hour of broadcast time, NBC showed only seventeen minutes of actual competition. The rest was taken up with commercials and “filler” such as the profiles. Other callers had the same opinion.

NBC has been rewarded with the lowest viewership in all the time they've been doing the Olympics. I hope that, if they get the contract for the 2004 Olympics, they'll have learned their lesson and will change their coverage.

They (or any other network) will get me to watch if they follow this philosophy: “We have to do commercials, but other than that, we will show you wall-to-wall competition.”


I agree with Jack Valenti, head of the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America), and the people who represent the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America)-- Napster is theft. At least, the vast majority of Napster users are using it to rip off copyrighted material.

I also agree with Phyllis Schlafly, the ultra-conservative head of the Eagle Forum, who thinks that the judges should not shut Napster down. Her reasoning is as follows: The company that produces Ritalin (a trademarked and copyrighted name) has copyrighted its literature. If Napster is shut down, this might set a precedent that would allow the makers of this drug to shut down any website that posts warnings about its use, since they would have to use the name and possibly refer to the copyrighted material.

I think the “fair use” doctrine would address the issue that Ms. Schlafly raises, but that's not the main point I wish to make here. The fact that Ms. Schlafly is on the same side of an issue as bands such as Smashing Pumpkins and Limp Bizkit is also remarkable, but, again, not the point.

The point is that we must always be clear to separate the message from the messenger. If the town drunk tells children to avoid alcohol because it's not good for their health, he may be a hypocrite, but that does not make his message invalid. Alcohol is bad for a child's health. they will ruin is a hypocrite, but he's not wrong. Similarly, even though the RIAA has a most miserly view of how recording artists should be recompensed for their work, their point in regard to Napster is valid. Although I find Ms. Schlafly's opinions on many other issues to be reprehensible, her position on this issue merits thought.

For the record (no pun intended): I don't have any MP3 files on my computer. I've never used Napster. I agree with the .sig file that says, “If I wanted your website to make noise, I would have wet my finger and dragged it across the monitor.”

Let me know what you think.

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