LOS ANGELES–MP3 piracy of copyrighted music claimed another victim Monday, when the emaciated body of rock-rap superstar Kid Rock was found on the median of La Cienega Boulevard.
"How many more artists must die of starvation before we put a stop to this MP3 madness?" asked Hilary Rosen, president of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). "MP3s of Kid Rock's music were so widely traded and downloaded by Napster users that he was driven back to the mean streets from whence he came, dying bankrupt and penniless in the gutter."
When found by police, the 28-year-old Kid Rock, born Bob Ritchie in Detroit, was still clutching the cardboard "Devil Without A Place To Sleep Or Anything To Eat" sign that had been his trademark ever since the rise of Napster's MP3-sharing software bankrupted him in January.
Rosen said the RIAA would prosecute the music-piracy firms that are responsible "to the fullest extent of the law."
"Napster killed Kid Rock, there's no doubt about it," Rosen said. "As soon as that web site went up last October, people stopped buying his music. It's not surprising, either: Why would anyone in their right mind pay $12.99 for a CD with artwork when they could simply spend seven hours downloading the compressed MP3 files of all the album's songs onto their home computer's desktop, decompress it into an AIFF sound file, and then burn the data onto a blank CD?"
"If we don't do something, this technology is going to destroy the record industry," said Nathan Davis, vice-president of Atlantic Records, Kid Rock's label. "Just imagine if the oil-change industry allowed the public to have direct access to oil and oil filters, enabling them to change their car's oil themselves without going through Jiffy Lube or Kwik Lube. People would stop going to oil-change shops, and the entire industry would collapse. We can't let that happen to us."
According to post-autopsy analysis of Kid Rock's stomach contents by the L.A. County coroner's office, his last meal consisted of newspapers, cigar butts, old CD liner notes, and the partial remains of sidekick Joe C., who had been missing since May 15.
Thus far, relief efforts on behalf of afflicted artists have met with little success. In January, Metallica, System Of A Down, and Powerman 5000 teamed up for a concert tour known as "Us Aid," but the rockers were forced to cancel when concertgoers at the kickoff show in Tempe, AZ, showed up with MP3 recording equipment. An all-star fundraiser CD featuring Kid Rock, Limp Bizkit, and Korn was similarly scrapped when an individual known only by the user name PimpKracker69@aol.com acquired a promotional copy and made it available to millions of fans over the Internet.
"This is exactly the kind of thing we've been warning our fans about," James Hetfield, the lone surviving member of Metallica, told reporters during a press conference at Hollywood's Grace Church Homeless Shelter. "First, they found Madonna dead of a crack overdose in the alley behind Liquid. Then my best friend and bandmate Lars is killed by cops during a botched hold-up of a liquor store. Now, Kid Rock dies of starvation like a filthy dog in the street. My God, people, didn't we learn the lesson of Elton John?"
John, the British rock star who went bankrupt in 1976 before private ownership of music-pirating cassette decks was made illegal, died of exposure on a Welsh moor that year after creditors repossessed his clothing.