Music on the Internet and Copyright Infringement

3491 Words7 Pages

Abstract Millions of users worldwide use online file swapping services, in order to download free music. Record companies, needless to say, are not very happy about this, neither are many musicians. This paper presents the historical and legal background of this subject. Then, it discusses the morality of such free music services, based on two major ethical theories: consequentialism and contractianism. Introduction The Audio Home Recording Act (AHRA) [1], states: “No action may be brought under this title alleging infringement of copyright based on the manufacture, importation, or distribution of a digital audio recording device, a digital audio recording medium, an analog recording device, or an analog recording medium, or based on the noncommercial use by a consumer of such a device or medium for making digital musical recordings or analog musical recordings.” The above indicates that individuals can make copies of music recordings for personal noncommercial use and cannot be sued for copyright infringement [2]. In 21st century terms, it can be argued that downloading MP3 files containing music for personal use is not illegal. Napster lawyers thought so too. This argument was used by Napster’s lawyers as one of the two lines of defense at the lawsuit filed against Napster by The Record Industry Association of America (the RIAA) [3]. Unfortunately for Napster, the judge ruling was in favor of the RIAA, and eventually it brought Napster down. Napster was a pioneer in the area of file swapping over the Internet. The Napster web site made available the software necessary for the Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file transfer to work. People used it primarily for copying MP3 music files, thus avoiding the need to actually purchase recorded music. Napster quickly became a very popular web site with a 15 million registered users in less than a year, according to company sources. However, Napster’s remarkable success was not at its best interest. It had drawn the attention of the Record Industry, and raised its concerns of Copyright infringement in large volumes. Barely a year after its launch, it was sued by the RIAA, which represents major recording companies such as Universal Music, BMG, Sony Music, Warner Music Group, and EMI. The RIAA claimed that by allowing users to swap music recordings for free, Napster’s service violated Copyright laws. Eventually, the judge ruled against Napster, and, failing to complete the sale deal with Bertelsmann AG, it had to shut down its operations and liquidate its assets [3].

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