Is File-Sharing Illegal?
Abstract: file-sharing violates existing copyright law by facilitating the widespread and illegal distribution of copyrighted material. This paper examines the case against file-sharing, by looking at how the players bear responsibility for the illegal acts currently made possible by this new technology. Finally, it suggests some remedies for file-sharing companies to reform themselves and become a potentially powerful and revolutionary company while still acting in compliance with the law.
Ancient lore told the story of the sirens, beautiful nymphs who would sing to passing sailors, distracting them from their duties and causing the errant ship to crash into the rocks below. Moving to the present time, we see a nascent technology that allows its users to violate the law, perhaps even unknowingly. Nearly everyone who uses the Internet today has heard of Napster, the program invented by wunderkind Shawn Fanning that allows for the millions of net users to share music each other. This technology has come under heavy fire recently, especially from the recording industry, which claims that Napster knowingly allows and even encourages the violation of copyright law, depriving both the artist and the industry of the fruits of their labor. Supporters counter that the technology supports nascent artists, and revolutionizes the music industry. This case is currently in the United States court system, and the question before the government, and indeed the entire web community is simple: Is Napster illegal?
The answer to this question is neither simple nor final, and debate on the subject will definitely continue as the technology and the industry evolves over time. At present Napster does violate the law, although the reason is circumstantial, and not inherent to the technology itself. Napster can exist within the law, but does not at present time. To prove this assertion, we must look at four points. First, we must distinguish all of the parties involved in the use of Napster. We will then examine the technology behind digital music in general, and specifically Napster. Then we will be able to detail the case against Napster, as well as the applicable law involved. After looking at Napster's defense, we will attempt an answer at the ultimate question, as well as for what damages Napster might be liable, and possible remedies that would hopefully satisfy all of the parties involved in this murky, and potentially landmark, case.
By far and away, the largest problem in dealing with a case like Napster is determining all of who is involved, and what actions and interactions they contribute to the core issues at hand. Since Napster's primary focus is the distribution of digital music, we must look at the producers, the distributors, and the consumers of the music. First, we have the artists, who create the music, and who also are split on the issue of...