Copy Rites: Stereophile and the Web

"The idea that intellectual property in a Net-based economy can lose its value horrifies most owners and creators. They'd better get over it."—Esther Dyson, "Intellectual Value" Wired, July 1995, p.136

One of the conclusions Esther Dyson drew in her recent article in Wired was that the one commodity in scarce supply in cyberspace is content. I agree, having found the Noise/Signal Ratio to be just too high for effective, easy electronic communication. As magazines and newspapers are the longest-lasting traditional "content providers," the subject of how to transfer their content-providing skills into the new electronic era occupies a lot of publishers' thoughts these days.

As a Sidebar to this debate, I included an e-mail exchange in this month's "Letters" that you might find illuminating. A new reader, Bill Rothwell, needed Stereophile's most recent "Recommended Components" listing, so I mailed a back issue to him. Bill responded that, as he had found someone making "Recommended Components" available on the Internet, he didn't need the paper magazine after all.

There are two points to note from this. First, and most important, the contents of every issue of Stereophile are registered with the Register of Copyrights in Washington, DC. Anyone who reproduces or reprints anything from this magazine in any form without our permission is infringing our copyright and can incur a hefty statutory penalty.

Second, the Wired article implied that the days of magazines printed on paper and underwritten by paid advertisements were almost over, meaning that it behooves magazines both to go online and to find new ways of generating income. We've thought about launching a Stereophile Home Page on the World-Wide Web. We've thought about starting a Stereophile computer bulletin board or a Stereophile forum on one of the online services. We've thought about making Stereophile's writers and editors available for online discussions. We've investigated making Stereophile's editorial contents available online, but we cannot yet see how it could be done on an economically viable basis.

So, let me ask you. What do you, our readers, want from us in terms of an online Stereophile? Do you want a duplicate of the printed magazine? Do you want to talk to our writers and editors? Do you want system and component advice on an individual basis? Let me know what you think—my e-mail address is on p.7—and maybe we'll give birth to a healthy, bouncing baby of an online Stereophile.

Oh, and the story I started with ended happily in that the pirated list Bill Rothwell found on the Internet was just that—a list. The printed "Recommended Components" was so much more informative that Bill decided to keep the back issue.