The Benefits of File Sharing Technology

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Napster: The Benefits of File Sharing Technology

Napster. Never before has one word brought so much controversy and debate over technology and peoples' rights to information. Napster was co-founded by Shawn Fanning, a college student with a million dollar idea. His idea was to provide people across the world the ability to download information from other users’ computers. Although this technology was already available through local networks, Shawn envisioned a way to make this network technology possible for the average college student like himself. What Shawn didn't envision however, was the lawsuits and court injunctions that now plague his company. These lawsuits have stemmed from Napster allegedly violating copyright laws set forth by the music industry. Seeing that Napster has approximately 64 million users worldwide, the company is being charged with allowing "rampant music piracy" (Evangelista 2001). Although this may be true, I believe that Napster is doing more good to our society than bad. It's use of file sharing technology and expression is allowing new standards to be set for the future.

A great misconception is that Napster provides its clients with illegally pirated music software known as MP3's. These MP3's are compressed CD quality music files that can be stored on any computer for easy listening, or can be copied onto an actual CD for listening on the go. In actuality, Napster does not provide any pirated MP3's; rather they act as a catalog for users to find certain songs (Magid, 2001). When you run the Napster program on your computer, Napster opens a direct link from your folder with MP3's files in it, to the catalog on the Napster server. Since Napster has over 60 million members, at any given time during the day hundreds of thousands of people have their files catalogued through Napster. So when I want to search for a song, Napster searches though the thousands of open directories of its users. When I find the song I want, I download the MP3 file directly from that particular Napster users computer. Napster as you can see is just acting as a search directory for MP3 files. Now that you know how Napster works, let me tell you why the program upsets so many people.

Napster first made national news when many universities, including IU, started to ban the file-sharing program. College students having access to Ethernet and large bandwidths could not resist Napster's service.

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