Perhaps the biggest downside of NapsterGnutella-like technologies is the very freedom from copyright they confer. Never mind that those of us in the ”content business“ would like to get paid. We have all grown used to a Web in which you can do hours and hours of free research. The existence of NapsterGnutella could spur not only lawsuits, but also technological solutions to the problem of unauthorized copying. Combine that with the Time Warner--AOL merger, and we may be seeing the start of the countdown to the day when you can no longer cut and paste text from your browser or print out articles for free, let alone download music and video. To give only one example, a new product called Clever Content Server allows graphic images to be seen only through its own viewer -- and the viewer disallows screen captures and the ”save as“ feature on your browser. It‘s a question of balance: Professional artists deserve not to have their work ”borrowed“ by other sites -- but what about innocent users, like school kids preparing reports?
So, are we looking at Pandora or Prometheus? Pandora unleashed evil and was left with hope. Prometheus gave the world fire and spent eternity having his liver picked at by an eagle. If NapsterGnutella are used wisely, with respect for copyright, we may see a golden age of collaboration. If not, then enjoy the Internet while you still can.