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This morning’s Observer column

From the moment the internet appeared in 1983, it was obvious to the meanest intelligence that it was a heaven-sent machine for delivering bits from one place to another. This insight, however, somehow eluded the record companies, despite the fact that they had just gone digital (the CD was launched in 1982) and were in the business of transporting bits from recording studios to consumers’ CD players.

Over the next decade and a half, the music industry continued to ignore the net. As a result, the record companies failed to develop a legal method for consumers to buy music online. In 1999, Shawn Fanning launched Napster and unleashed the illicit file-sharing habits that nearly destroyed the industry…