Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Bootleg Blues

As much as I dislike the idea of stealing copyrighted material from musicians via Napster, I question the U.S. District Judge Marilyn Patel’s decision to crack down on a single MP3 trading service.

As much as I dislike the idea of stealing copyrighted material from musicians via Napster, I question the U.S. District Judge Marilyn Patel’s decision to crack down on a single MP3 trading service. Yeah, Napster was Goliath at the time with over 60 million registered users, and David had to make an example of somebody, but in truth the verdict accomplished very little.

No law was passed prohibiting the illegal trade of MP3’s. The case didn’t even set a strong precedent – no money or compensation changed hands. Napster filtered out over 120,000 songs, but users responded by changing the spellings, or even using code names or pig latin to get around the filter.

Three months after the judge’s decision, traffic on Napster is down 90 per cent, although the site recently closed distribution deals with record companies to release approved titles.

Meanwhile, according to CNN Technology, about 60 other MP3 trading services have popped up on the Web, and each one is doing a brisk trade. Although the convenience of one-stop shopping at Napster is a thing of the past, the mom and pop stores usually have the best stuff anyway.

Until there is a law – and one is probably on the way in the next few years once George W. figures what the Internet is and is taught right from wrong – you might as well download, and to hell with the ethics. That’s rock and roll.

There are two basic types of services, OpenNap and Gnutella. OpenNap sites work just like Napster, directing all traffic through a central server, or a network of centralized servers. Gnutella connects computers to other computers in chains, and the chains link to other chains.

On both types of networks you can trade any kind of file you want. Searching using OpenNap systems is faster and more efficient, with directories existing in one location. Gnutella is more reliable, however – if one server in the chain isn’t working, it just goes looking for the next. If the feds eventually go around shutting central servers, Gnutella applications will likely escape their scrutiny for the longest time.

Here is a shot-list of the best Gnutella and OpenNap sites available.


LimeWire –

Because you can trade any kind of file you want, it may be hard at first to locate MP3 files. With a little practice, however, you’ll be pirating music like a pro. The quality and quantity of music available is still patchwork, but the database is getting bigger all the time.

BearShare –

BearShare* is a lot more boring to look at than LimeWire, but it seems a lot faster. You can tell how fast a connection is by looking at the bar under the Quality of Service column in the search window – if it’s full green, then you’re off. On routine searches, I also seemed to get a lot more responses even though LimeWire apparently has more users. Another comforting feature is the presence of advertising – without ads, you have to wonder how long a site can stay in business without going to a user-pay system.

*BearShare shut down in 2016. For some alternative music P2P services, visit


Napigator –

You know Napster, you’re comfortable with Napster, and Napigator is Napster. But instead of routing your queries through the central Napster server, it gives you an opportunity to access the databases on other Nap servers through a Napster interface. It can be a bit of a pain at first, but after a while you’ll figure out which Nap servers have the music you want.

WinMX –

WinMX works like Napigator, but gives you a head start by logging you onto a selection of servers to search. You can add other Nap servers to your start-up list as you need to. It’s not as slick as Napster, but it’s just as effective at proliferating the free exchange of bootlegged copyrighted material as any other OpenNap interface – with a little practice.

The problem with all the above services is that they are open file sharing networks that also happen to facilitate the sharing of music files. There are at least three active services dedicated to music, and more are on the way.

Check out Kazaa Media Desktop at , Aimster at, and Audio Galaxy at Each site has its advantages and its flaws – slow downloads, limited selections or complicated interfaces – but it’s nothing that you won’t be able to live with.