Napster: The Copyright Battle Essay

Napster: The Copyright Battle Essay

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Once upon a time a website provided free music through peer-to-peer file sharing. This was a new technology for the public for a several reasons. The price of home computers had declines dramatically and many people could now afford one. Because of the affordability, many people who had never used a computer suddenly found themselves enmeshed in the new media. Not only could people do their e-mail, do paperwork, play games and use all the different applications they now could also share their files with others. Of course, they wanted to share one of our most valued pleasures, our love of music. The public was not aware that this type of file sharing was illegal because it was not clear on the website disclaimer. Most people did not understand United States copyright laws or the concept of Fair Use. It was the golden age of the internet and everyone was happy with his or her new toy. In this paper, I will discuss legal implications of peer-to-peer file sharing. The most famous case was the Napster lawsuits. I was interested because I got a cease and desist letter spring 2000. I stopped but I never quite understood what the difference was between file-sharing and recording music off the radio, which I later learned was illegal also. This paper will explore if the current copyright laws provide the protection necessary for intellectual property. If not, does it need to be revised? Can the Fair Use Doctrine and the new technology co-exist in the same world?
According to Wikipedia (2011), “Napster was an online music peer-to-peer file sharing service created by Shawn Fanning while he was attending Northeastern University in Boston. The service, named after Fanning's hairstyle-based nickname, operated between June 1999 and July ...

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... such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:
1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
2. The nature of the copyrighted work
3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work
The distinction between fair use and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission. (Fair Use, 1976)

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