to the 21st Century: The Napster Controversy
The impact of this simple little program with a funny-sounding name has
been dramatic. Almost overnight, Napster has made file-sharing front page
news and the company has become one of the biggest players in cyberspace.
by a college student from Boston named Shawn Fanning who thought it would
be nice if there was a better way to find and share MP3s with his friends,
Napster turned out to be the biggest thing to hit the Net in years. It
wasn't long before Fanning's program was being used by Net savvy college
students all over the world to trade MP3s. People
had been talking about and listening to mp3 files for years, but it wasn't
until Napster that digital music exploded.
Napster use has grown at a rate unequaled
by any program since the original Netscape inspired the explosive growth
of the World Wide Web. Napster has stirred widespread interest in digital
music and accelerated the spread of a huge pool of MP3 files, both
legal and illegal, now estimated to number in the billions.
the opening of the second round of the trial between the recording industry
and Napster in the first week of October, Webnoize was reporting that
the Napster site was getting nearly a million visits a day, meaning nearly
a million people a day were visiting the Napster site to download the
company's software, visit discussion areas and bone up on the latest lawsuit
Boston-based research firm also estimated that in September alone, 1.4
billion files were downloaded via Napster's servers.
Does it Work?
Napster allows users to locate and transfer music files from other users
on the Napster network . In a process that is both very simple and very
effective, Napster users can simultaneously search the hard drives of
everybody who is online and using Napster. In practice, this means Napster
users have free almost instant access to hundreds of thousands (and often
millions) of MP3s, depending on how many people are online at the time.
info. Master Napster: the netwebly guide to using Napster.
in practice Napster allows fans to locate and download copyrighted material,
and because they have done so in record numbers, the reaction from the
recording industry and many prominent musicians has been predictably negative.
It wasn't along before the Recording Industry
Association of America (RIAA) filed suit against Napster, asking the
courts to shut the company down and put a stop to the sharing.
expected, after a widely publicized trial, US District Court Judge Marilyn
Patel ruled that Napster was in violation of the law and ordered the company
real news came at the eleventh hour when a court of appeals overturned
Patel's ruling, allowing Napster to continue operation - a decision that
has allowed Napster to defy the odds and continue growing at a phenomenal
Digital Music Explodes
The impact for music on the Net has been energizing. Bogged down by resistance
from the major record labels for years, the MP3 movement finally exploded
when Napster showed up - just as people had been predicting it one day
would. Ironically, the recording industry strategy of refusing to negotiate
with digital music companies like MP3.com and Napster seems to have backfired.
Unable to find legal MP3s of the music they love through other sources
, many people have been more than willing to download files from Napster
and the other file sharing services without asking. The very thing that
the Industry had feared would happen has indeed happened and happened
in spectacular style.
The Big Questions
The questions a program like Napster raises are clearly complicated. Should
sharing files over the Net be legal? If so, under what circumstances?
what rights do artists and performers have in this new environment? What
should the role of government be? And finally, should Napster users use
the service at all, given the moral implications of taking something without
paying for it?
people, on both sides of the file sharing controversy, claim the answers
to these questions are clear cut. Under the circumstances, this seems
the New Pardigram, Man
music may be better suited for digital distribution than any other form
of digital content, including print, a point you'll hear echoed by digital
music advocates almost everywhere you go in cyberspace.
Good Music - New Music - Real Music
Finding and listening to good music has always been a challenge. Many
people are unhappy with the music they hear on the radio and the videos
they see on cable channels like MTV and VH1. Just as many complain that
the music they see on the charts has nothing to do with them. By
allowing people to look to each other for new music instead of to the
recording industry, Napster in theory, creates a new environment where
music will be allowed to blossom unrestrained by traditional industry.
The potential this new environment has to stimulate interest in music
and spread is almost unimaginable.
implications for the recording industry, which has long been accused of
manipulating markets and unfairly treating musicians, are obviously nothing
short of revolutionary.
Easy to Find, Easy to Use
While the World Wide Web obviously poses a real opportunity for both music
lovers and the industry, the sheer size of the Web can make finding and
downloading good music a real challenge. Under the circumstances, many
feel a centralized distribution system based on the Napster model makes
too much sense to ignore.
advocates feel that any negative impact caused by piracy and unauthorized
duplication will be minimal compared to the many advantages such a system
of distributing music using the Net are almost nothing compared to the
massive expenses involved in publicizing and shipping conventional compact
By migrating to digital distribution, the recording industry and many
musicians stand to make a hell of a lot money, a fact that seems to elude
many involved in the debate.
In many cases entire concerts have turned up on Napster only hours after
a band has finished playing. While some musicians are understandably upset
about this and the resulting loss of creative control, music fans are
just as understandably excited.
The implication for both the recording industry and musicians is potentially
revolutionary. As a medium Napster and file sharing services like it could
be a way to extend the reach and earning power of live performances.
the massive promotional and logistical expenses which have made touring
a no win proposition for many bands, this factor alone could revolutionize
the industry. In the past many bands have been reluctant to raise ticket
prices to cover the increased costs of touring. Pay per view or subscription
Napster concerts and tours could make this problem a thing of the past.
Peer to Peer: the next big thing ?
Like every other hot new application to hit the Net, Napster has inspired
a wave of copy cats and imitators, all eager to cash in the file sharing
frenzy. Just as they have seized on ideas like Net auctions, Portals and
Free Internet Service in the past, entrepreneurs have jumped on file sharing
as fast as they can.
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