Napster: The Copyright Battle Essay

1388 words - 6 pages

Once upon a time a website provided free music through peer-to-peer file sharing. This was a new technology for the public for a several reasons. The price of home computers had declines dramatically and many people could now afford one. Because of the affordability, many people who had never used a computer suddenly found themselves enmeshed in the new media. Not only could people do their e-mail, do paperwork, play games and use all the different applications they now could also share their files with others. Of course, they wanted to share one of our most valued pleasures, our love of music. The public was not aware that this type of file sharing was illegal because it was not clear on the website disclaimer. Most people did not understand United States copyright laws or the concept of Fair Use. It was the golden age of the internet and everyone was happy with his or her new toy. In this paper, I will discuss legal implications of peer-to-peer file sharing. The most famous case was the Napster lawsuits. I was interested because I got a cease and desist letter spring 2000. I stopped but I never quite understood what the difference was between file-sharing and recording music off the radio, which I later learned was illegal also. This paper will explore if the current copyright laws provide the protection necessary for intellectual property. If not, does it need to be revised? Can the Fair Use Doctrine and the new technology co-exist in the same world?
According to Wikipedia (2011), “Napster was an online music peer-to-peer file sharing service created by Shawn Fanning while he was attending Northeastern University in Boston. The service, named after Fanning's hairstyle-based nickname, operated between June 1999 and July 2001. Its technology allowed people to easily share their MP3 files with other participants, bypassing the established market for such songs and thus leading to massive copyright violations of music and film media as well as other intellectual property". This actually was a promising idea. There are many independent musicians, writers and various other artist that cannot afford to promote their work and develop a following. This was virtually a free way to advertise their product without trying to get a contract with a company to distribute and promote their work. As long as the artist had given permission for the use of the work, there was not a problem. The copyright laws of the United States provides for the artist to benefit from his/her intellectual property for a set period. Then the work goes into the public domain. However, this was not the case with Napster. The first problem was that they were allowing distribution of copyrighted work without permission or compensation to the artist. Second, it appears that they knowingly promoted their product once they were informed that copyright infringement was being practice with the assistance of their site.
According to Jeff Tyson, there were several reasons why the...

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