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Napster creates a threat to the music industry, which includes Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and well-known musical groups, because it diminishes their distribution control, record sales and lowers their profit. The music industry must continue to take legal action against Napster to eliminate its negative impact.
Last year a nineteen year old college student attending Boston's Northeastern University was sitting in front of his computer screen with a challenge, a challenge to create a way of downloading music off the Internet faster (Graham 1D). The nineteen year old solved the problem and created software that would generate a worldwide conflict. This nineteen year olds name is Shawn Fanning creator of Napster.
Fanning's software became very popular among his college friends. He stopped going to classes and he spent all of his time working on his software. His uncle then noticed how popular the software was becoming and loaned money to Fanning to start an online company (Graham 1D). Nineteen-year-old Fanning gave his software the name Napster, because he had nappy hair when he was younger and "Napster" became his nickname as a child. (Graham 1D.) Napster officially started June 1, 1999.
Napster can be explained as a file-sharing program also called peer-to-peer sharing. Napster links music off of people's computers and permits other Napster users to recover them from whomever might be connected to the Internet at that time (Graham 1D).
Napster has been nothing but a success in the eyes of many. USA Today author Jefferson Graham explains, "To its fans, Napster is the greatest radio station in the world, a place to pick up new music for nothing" (Graham 1D). Napster has taken the MP3 technology of compressing music files loaded on computers hard drives, and used it to its benefit. We can download MP3s in less than two minutes (Gibeaut 39). This aspect is very appealing to the fast moving generation of today.
Chaos rose when Napster provided free music to virtually everyone. The idea of free music exploded among college students. Downloading is even easier from inside a dorm room because colleges are on networking systems, which means instant Internet connection. Unlike a modem that has to connect every time we sign on the Internet, a network is always connected to the Internet and runs very fast. This networking factor destroyed the music industry's distribution to college students.
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Napsters overwhelming use not only happened among college students, "One in four American adults had downloaded music by one means or another, making the Napster issue a cultural phenomenon" (Simon 1). Since the reaction to Napster was so great the music industry soon noticed that there was no possible way of keeping track of their worldwide distribution. Songs were being downloaded ever day off Napster and there was no way for the industry to calculate and control it.
Napster's distribution is only one issue that the music industry felt threatened by. In the first year of Napster's establishment, the RIAA lost $4.5 million dollars to Napster pirates. Napster users illegally download anywhere from 12 million to 30 million songs a day. Factors like 12 million to 30 million songs just given away in one day is very frightening to recording companies and artists who make most of their income through selling an album (Gibeaut 37).
People can download music off Napster and burn them to a CD for under a dollar. People can also store around 1,000 MP3 files-copies of songs that they download from other people's computers with Napster.
In a record store, all that music would have cost a lot of money. [They] didn't pay a dime for it . . .they're not idiots. They know that they're getting something for nothing. The gumball machine broke and all the gumballs are rolling down the floor. (Carlson A51)
Along with the sudden drop in record sales, copyright
laws are being tampered with. Ever since the printing press was invented, copyright arguments have been around. The wax recorder, the phonograph, the tape recorder, the videocassette recorder, and the floppy disk are just a few prime examples of inventions that held heated disputes over the copyright laws. Copyright owners have worked hard throughout time to stop technology that threatens complete control over sales and distribution (Sherman 17). Copyright is so important that it was placed into the Constitution to give Congress the power "to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries (Gibaeut 38)."
Napster is making a profit off of swapping copyrighted music. Writer Joshua Piven comments, "20 million users are not simply swapping songs one-for-one; there's clearly some copyright infringement going on, whether Napster wants to admit it or not (Piven 1)." It would be all right if Napster was reproducing small sections of copyrighted songs. Infringements on the copyright laws enter in when Napster created massive duplications and distributions of whole songs (Gibeaut 39).
Copyright laws are given to the creator, artists, and author so that they have complete control over their works (Gibeaut 1). At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Napster was discussed. Mr. Scheirer stated there, "Americans need to know that a copyright exists so that the creator can get paid (Simon 1)." So what good is a copyright when companies like Napster give the copyrighted material out for free?
The powerful music industry was very alarmed by the new technology of Napster. So they quickly filed lawsuits stating that Napster is obviously in violation of many copyright codes and infringing on their copyrights (Sherman 16). Copyright infringement can only be claimed if the creator or owner of the copyrighted material can prove that they are truly the creator or owner (Dudnik 67). The music industry proved that they did own the material and that secured their claim.
The music industry also blamed Napster of making it possible for Napster users to download music for free. Writer Jenny Elisco states, "The RIAA filed its suit against Napster last December, accusing the company of facilitating rampant copyright infringement by allowing users to download artist material for free"(Elisco 35). There was no way the music industry could look passed the effects of Napster.
Among the lawsuits filed by the RIAA, major bands were also upset about Napster and they too filed additional lawsuits against Napster. These bands felt that Napster gave away their means of making a living away for free and promoted it too. Bands such as Mettalica and Dr. Dre not only sued the file sharing company for violating the copyright law but they also claimed that Napster encouraged users to download music illegally (Manafy 6).
New technology will forever be a menace to distribution and profit sales of the music industry. But for now the music industry as a whole has joined together and taken the right actions to put an end to today's menace, Napster.
Work Sighted Page
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Manafy, Michelle. "The Litigation Ledger." Emedia. June
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