Napster Japan launched earlier this week, and I would have written about it when I saw the announcement. But I wanted to investigate the service before I wrote about it, and now that I have, there’s nothing to report.
I couldn’t access it.
Unlike iTunes, which is actually cruel enough to let you browse and search a catalog which US customers are barred from purchasing, Napster doesn’t even include a mechanism to switch locales within its interface.
I visited the Napster Japan web site, and downloaded the software. I wasn’t encouraged by the fact the installer included the letters "US" in the file name.
I’m guessing Napster determines your locale through your IP address and prompts to save the appropriate localized version of its software. If your Japanese living in the US, or American living in Japan, you’re screwed.
I installed the software and was greeted by marketing efforts geared specifically to American audiences. I saw nothing to allow me to search Napster Japan, nor Napster UK nor Napster Germany, for that matter.
So like iTunes, Napster compartmenatlizes the localized markets, not paying one whit to music fans with a genuine interest in international artists. Society is getting globalized after all.
Part of me understands — US copyright laws applies only to releases in the US. If you want to release something overseas, you need a lawyer and accountant to deal with a foreign nation’s copyright laws.
How many more years do global music fans have to wait before such barriers are addressed by the labels? Probably forever, given the major labels’ short-sightedness.