Napster Problem or Solution
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
exchanging 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
the 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
record companies have decided...