Go Ahead, Rip Limewire’s Head Off. But At Least Save the Body

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Wasn’t that the lesson we learned with Napster?

That obliterating the entire application was the wrong thing to do?  That tremendous brand equity was lost, along with a mob of music-hungry fans?

And so here we are with Limewire.  It’s getting shut down – well, to the degree you can shut down a modern-day, decentralized file-sharing app.  But should the city really be razed?  Or can some law-abiding citizens be coaxed into the next, legal iteration of Limewire?

Tough questions.  Apparently saving Napster would have been impossible anyway.  The rumor is that Napster offered the labels one billion dollars – insert Dr. Evil pose here – to operate freely.  A laughable figure, right?  And you think thousands of rights holders could agree to revolutionary licensing terms over the weekend?  Maybe the circus had to be shut down.

But here we are in 2010, with “Napster II” struggling to recapture its past glory.  In fact, talk to non-industry friends about Napster, and they’re likely to wax about the late-90s, early-2000s version.  Huh?  Did the brand really die, just like that?

Makes you wonder about Limewire.  Can Mark Gorton and George Searle actually pull off “Spoon,” or whatever this legit rebirth is getting called now?  A cloud-based, on-demand and download service at the right price?  Or, does it just get crowded to the edges after a splashy entrance?

History suggests the latter.  And if the “new Napster” is any indication, a refreshed version would ultimately get a soggy reception.  That is, IF these guys can get it over the finish line.  Gorton is currently getting his finances ransacked by both labels and publishers – is that the proper headspace for building something brilliant?

Then again, maybe Gorton’s head needs to be on a stick.  Of course, it won’t stop every new Limewire, but it will certainly make investors and entrepreneurs think twice about sticking it to the labels and copyright law.  But the Limewire app and its community…. it should have been saved.  At least you knew where everyone was hanging out!  At least there was a chance of bridging towards something new…

Paul Resnikoff, publisher.  Written while listening to Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto (as played by the Berlin Philharmonic) on Grooveshark.