Napster! It is a name we are all familiar with by now. It is the revolutionary way to trade song files on the net based on a peer-peer network. Napster has about 32 million users, which download approximately 1.4 billion songs a month. I am proud to say that I am one of those 32 million people and would be devastated if it were to disappear. Well this could very well happen. Napster is trying to be shut down by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) for copyright infringement. The RIAA is bringing up a case against Napster that convicts them of four main infringements. If Napster is found innocent on any one of these four convictioins then the case is over and Napster is allowed to stay up and running. The first conviction is, are Napster users guilty of copyright infringement? The answer to this may be yes but in no way is Napster responsible for it’s users commiting illegal acts.
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Even if it were illegal as of now there are over 25,000 artists that have given permission for their music to be circulated and shared on Napster. A similar case took place in 1984. Universal studios tried to sue Sony for the use of their VCR’s. It was proven that their VCR’s were being used for 80% copyright infringement. But the court ruled that even thought there wasn’t a substantial use of non- infringing going on VCR’s could not be banned because there was some legal use taking place. So I ask does it even look as if there is a case here? The evidence seems to be overwhelmingly in favor of Napster.
The third issue is whether or not Napster is covered by the Digital Millenium Act. The act states that Internet service providers are given a safe harbor so that they canot be help liable fore their users activities. The RIAA is trying to argue that Napster is not covered by this act because they know that some of their users are committing infringement. Well if you step back and take a look at the act then you know that that is not what Congress meant when they passed this act. If the companies did not know that their users were committing infringement then they would be help to no liability at all. The Digital Millenium Act was set up for companies that had knowledge of unlawful use going on among users. It stated that the company must give a notice to the courts of this user or terminate their account. Napster has done this to thousands of users and therefor is in compliance with this issue also.
The fourth and final issue is copyright misuse. This issue can only help out Napster in this case. The court has made it clear that it is copyright misuse if a company try to take control over something that they do not control directly. This is a perfect example of what the RIAA is trying to do to Napster. There are written documents from the RIAA themselves that say they want to shutdown Napster then take control of the technology for their own personal use. So if they are in fact guilty of copyright misuse then they cannot inforce any of their copyrights. Therefor they would not be able to accuse Napster of any copyright infringements.