In mid-1999, 19 year old Northeastern University student Shawn Fanning designed a computer program that allowed one to log on to a central server, and be able to download mp3 music files from another computer at lightning speed, with great ease. He called this program Napster, after his old high school nickname. Since it’s inception, Napster has sparked court cases involving every major record company in North America, and created a worldwide debate about copyright infringement and it’s effects on the music industry.
Napster is a peer to peer file-sharing program designed specifically for the exchange of MPEG 1 Layer 3,also known as MP3, digital audio files. These files are super-compressed audio that would normally be more than ten times larger than they are as MP3s. This is because MP3s special coding cuts down on file size while maintaining nearly all noticeable sound quality. Because of this people use MP3s to record songs and store them on their computers. They can be played using many different pieces of audio software available such as Nullsoft’s Winamp and Microsoft Windows Media Player.
Napster is designed to facilitate the easy searching and xchanging of MP3 files by allowing users to search for specific songs or artists and displaying a list of those songs available through other Napster users. This is great for users who want to enjoy free music but the record companies aren’t quite as happy about this. They are concerned that Napster steals money from them and the artists that they represent. This is because if Napster users get songs for free from other users, they won’t be paying the record companies for CDs.
Luckily for the record companies, there are laws in place to protect interests such as theirs. These laws are called copyright laws. They prevent people from using, distributing, or selling things that are not theirs. By having music that one did not buy on a CD, or distributing music through programs such as Napster, one is committing copyright infringement. The record companies are so angry about all of this that they have decided to take it to court. Since they can not sue all of the thousands and thousands of Napster users who are committing copyright infringement, they have decided to sue Napster itself instead.
This would effectively eliminate he source of the problem as most MP3 exchange today is done through Napster. The problem is that Napster is never actually committing copyright infringement, as Napster is never actually in possession of illegal MP3 files. They are never stored in, nor do they travel through Napster’s server. The server merely record the name and location of the files and routes users together in order to exchange files. Once the users have been connected the file is transferred directly from one user to another and the Napster server is no longer involved.
Because of this design, the ecord companies have decided to accuse Napster of facilitating copyright infringement. This means that they did not actually steal any music but they help user do so. Right now the case is still going on. In early August, the courts decided that Napster must shut down its server, effectively cutting off all of its users. This was handed down in the form of an injunction. Shortly after, the decision was appealed and the case continued. Napster went back online, and the court case is continued. Recently Bertelsmann, owner of BMG Records, dropped its part of he suit and settled out of court with Napster.
Some individual bands have also decided to act against Napster, but in a different way. Metallica, a band widely known as the most popular heavy metal band today, hired a consulting firm to record the username and IP addresses of users who had illegally shared or downloaded their songs over a period of days. They delivered the list of hundreds of thousands of users to Napster headquarters and demanded that these users be kicked off of the service. They were. Other musicians such as rap superstar and forefather Dr. Dre have followed suit.
Many users who were kicked off have become very angry and Metallica has received a lot of negative media attention as a result of their actions. Other bands, on the other hand, see Napster as an easier way to new bands to get heard, a way to take away some of the power from the strangle holds of a few giant media conglomerates that control the music industry, and as the new wave in music distribution. Either way, one thing is for sure: MP3s, the Internet, and Napster has and will continue to seriously change the way that recorded music is exchanged.
Static IP addresses are always the same while dynamic IP addresses change every time that the user connects to the internet. Cable modems use static IP addresses while telephone, Digital Subscriber Lines (DSL) use dynamic IP addresses. There are pros and cons to each system. The main criticism of static IP addresses is that hackers can get a user’s IP address and take as long as they need to in order to work on breaking into their system. Hackers can not do that if one’s IP address changes every time that they connect.
Providers of static IP address services use firewalls in order to help prevent such unwanted tampering by hackers. Firewalls are available in two forms, hardware and software. Hardware firewalls are separate devices that attach to a personal computer, a network, or a server. Software firewalls are pieces of software in a PC or network server. Both types of firewalls perform the same function. They monitor information between a user and the Internet. They are programmed to detect and eliminate any unwanted exchanges of information from occurring, such as a hacker attempting to infiltrate a user’s computer.
The Arguments: Napster, the Record Companies, the Artists Artists whose music is shared on the Napster network are very divided on the issue of whether he service is to be shut down. Several artists have taken very prominent stances for or against the program. While some have brought forth legal proceedings against the company, others have embraced it and openly admit its benefits. In May 2000, Lars Ulrich, drummer from the rock band Metallica, delivered a list of 317,377 names of Napster users names to the company who were later banned, as he demanded that Napster restrict access to the band’s music.
The site subsequently banned 230,142 users who downloaded mp3’s of rapper Dr. Dre. Metallica and Dr. Dre later filed identical copyright infringement lawsuits against Napster. Later, in July, Ulrich took the case up a notch before the Senate Judiciary Committee, saying that Congress needs to pass new laws to protect copyrighted music against Napster and other Internet music-download services. Then, in September, Howard King, a Los Angeles attorney who represents Metallica and Dr. Dre, sent letters earlier this month to about a dozen prominent educational institutions asking campus administrators to restrict access to Napster.
Duke University, Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently rejected these requests to halt the use of Napster. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) also has declined to impose a ban. On the opposing side, Yale University, University Of Indiana, and the University of Southern California decided to implement the ban. These requests, as well as the actual suit, were still unresolved at the time of writing this essay. Alternately, there are several artists that have embraced the technology.
The Offspring originally had some problems with the company, as they used the Napster logo on merchandise without the company’s permission. However, they have since reached an agreement and continue to sell the erchandise and support all of Napster’s efforts to remain functional. The funds from the merchandise are going to The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. During July and August of this year, rock band Limp Bizkit reached an agreement with Napster to perform in a series of free tour dates, sponsored by the company, with the band receiving no profits. They also brought rappers Cypress Hill on the tour.
They have also made statements openly supporting their decisions and encouraging users to continue taking advantage of the service, calling it an excellent way to expose people to new music. In fact, on Napster’s web site, there is an entire feature on artists’ statements supporting Napster, by performers such as Madonna and Prince. Finally, rapper Chuck D. received serious criticism when he posted four of his newest songs in mp3 format on his internet home, and actually spoke in front of Congress in May to speak of his experiences and opinions on Napster and it’s effects on music as a business and an entertainment.
Even without going into much depth as to the reasons behind their stances, the chasm between some artists regarding Napster and mp3 is huge, and while some artists only mildly represent ne side or the other, several have taken huge steps in the direction that they feel is right. The Napster-Bertelsmann Agreement Napster, of Redwood City, California and Bertelsmann, of Germany have recently formed a strategic alliance. Bertelsmann, the media conglomerate and owner of BMG music, has decided to make a large financial investment in Napster to give it a much needed injection of capital.
They have also agreed to drop the lawsuit brought on by BMG, their record company, that is similar to the suit brought on by other record companies. The lawsuit was a multimillion-dollar ase brought on against Napster by many of the world’s largest and most powerful media empires. They were suing Napster for facilitating copyright infringement by allowing users to exchange MP3 files that had been illegally copied without consent or royalty paid to the record companies. They will also put BMG music on Napster to be available to all Napster users.
In return, Napster intends to make a huge concession that some believe will compromise the original intent and current appeal of the program. They intend to charge a monthly user fee to all Napster users to allow them to access the service. The impact of this concept is yet unknown, and can only truly be known once implemented. Napster has promised advanced warning before any change of this size takes place. They are asking for the opinions of users about the proposed change. Many users are concerned about the effect that this will have on them.
They are worried that the number of users will decline sharply and there will thereby be far less music to choose from. They are also concerned that the fee will be more than many users would be willing to pay. Napster has created a whole new mindset for many people about the entire concept of etting and having music. They have fostered the idea that music is free for all to access and have. It will be very hard for them to change this revolution that they themselves had a huge part in creating.
It is hypocritical of them to talk about Napster and free music being the “new wave” and that this is the new direction that the music industry must go in, and then turn around and start charging a fee. Some have even questioned whether or not Napster will survive this change. Whatever happens as a result of this new policy and business plan, one effect that most experts gree on is the fact that other similar services that are actually free will gain in popularity if Napster decides to charge a user fee. Some other services such as Gnutella are already available.
It is very different because unlike Napster, Gnutella has no server. The Gnutella program searches for MP3s directly on other user’s computers rather than on a centralized server. This makes a profound difference because without a centralized server there is nothing to shut down if the company is sued. The downside to Gnutella and programs like it is that it is slower, less ffective, and less user friendly than Napster. These issues should be resolved eventually and the process should speed up if Napster decides to charge a user fee because the demand for a free and viable alternative will jump.
In Closing: The answers to these questions are held, more than anywhere else, in the hands of the major record companies. Bertelsmann’s BMG is no longer an issue, but Sony, Epic, and several others have not yet shown an interest in Napster’s continuation. The only apparent way for the program to continue would be to reach an agreement with the aforementioned companies and find some ay to record and charge users a subscription fee, while paying these fees to the appropriate corporations and, therefore, artists.
In return, Napster would avoid the multimillion dollar suit in currently faces and, depending on it’s success at that point, perhaps even be a profitable endeavor. This idea, however, does have some faults. For example, one must examine how many users would cease to use Napster with its proposed subscription charge. There are several other programs available that, since they have no central server, would be impossible to shut down.
These programs, on the other hand, are not as user friendly as Napster, and therefore some users may decide to pay for its ease. As one can deduce from the information presented in this essay, the court case involving Napster and the Recording Industry Association of America is a complex one with no definite right answer. It seems impossible to please the artists, the record companies, and Napster users all with one solution. In the meantime, Napster is a huge force in the dynamic of music today and continues to be enjoyed by thousands of users every day.