ONE OF THE MOST common complaints bands have of major labels is the lack of control artists are offered over their product. They are frequently asked to re-record music to fit the record company's idea of them. If the band doesn't comply, they risk having their music shelved: unpublicized or unavailable until they're released from their contract.

The beauty of a thing like Napster is that a lesser-known band can, with very little effort, garner publicity and distribution without intervention from labels. But not every artist on Napster has given consent to be there. If Napster denies a band control over their product, then they're no better than major labels. Do Internet users have the right to distribute mass quantities of a band's music without receiving or even asking permission? Obviously the answer is no.

Napster is just a primitive step in breaking the reliance on big labels to sell music, showing us what's possible: a world that doesn't turn on the whims of timid executives for the art it sees.

Supporters of Napster say that they are merely exercising their freedom of information. Because there is no law prohibiting what they do, they see no reason to stop. But this cowardly logic does not make it morally right to distribute artists' work without permission. Being an artist is hard enough without opportunistic computer users ripping you off.

Putting someone's art on the Internet for people to copy without getting permission is stealing, and Napster is just an easy and guileless way to screw somebody else anonymously. If Napster users had to physically steal CDs from stores like Tower Records or even Cellophane Square to get their music for free, there'd be huge puddles of piss in front of America's record stores. Eyes accustomed to a glowing screen would flash with fear and legs would liquefy as would-be shoplifters turned and ran. Yes, Napster users are chickens, cheats, and chumps. The technology is being used improperly. If you really love music, and if you like a band enough to listen to theirs, support them by forking over your hard-earned cash.