Napster Essay, Research Paper
Napster s Battle
Napster has become a part of all most every individuals vocabulary. It can be argued that Napster is the same blank tapes, meaning that both can record music from the original format and be used to play later. Also, people who think that Napster should be shut down say that it is taking money away from the artist and their royalties. It is subject debated; whether or not Napster has violated the copyright laws set forth by the record companies. This is to be determined by a court of law.
When blank tapes came onto the market, the record business thought that they would be the downfall of the industry. As people look back they realize that this was incorrect, blank tapes actually helped the industry rather then hurt it. The major fight then was that blank tapes were violating copyright laws and wee wanted to be removed from the market. Now Napster is having the same problem as the blank tape industry; people believe that this Internet application is violating copyright laws in every way possible. Napster allows people to download an application connecting them to a server so that they can share music files with others on their computers.
How this is any different than the blank tape dispute is quite interesting. The basic idea of Napster is the same as a blank tape, both allow the general public to listen to their choice of music, without spending much money. Now that technology is growing at a fast pace, the industry is scared that it may lose out on some of the income. This has been proven to be false from the results from blank audiotape sales in which there was no change in income. Many people claim that they use Napster as a preview application, so that they can actually listen to the band before buying the CD. Napster also indorses bands, by providing a free tour this shows that, not everyone believes that Napster is hurting the record industry. Napster, as seen by most is something like a blank audiotape for your computer and nothing more. It does not violate copyright laws and allows people to enjoy the music before actually purchasing it.
The dirty little secrets of those trying to shut down Napster ignore that, historically, technology often rewards those who fear it and fight it most vigorously. This practice is particularly true in the entertainment area. Television was supposed to drive the movies out of business; along with the radio, audiocassette recorder and VCR s there were expectations of the entertainment industry being ruined. In the early 1980 s, Motion Picture Association President Jack Valenti, who now leads the fight against Napster, claimed the VCR was to film as the Boston strangler is to the woman alone (Macko, Lia). Unfortunately, for Valenti it was not just a bad line, it also turned out to be completely inaccurate in the long run. Though the movie industry lost its bid for laws requiring video stores to pay a royalty each time a customer rents a video cassette, the film business won the substantial financial benefits tied to the expanded sale and distribution of videos. These revenues now account for a healthy portion of the movie industries profits (Macko, Lia). Napster could bring similar rewards to the music industry. Nearly three-quarters of all Napster users say their use of the service has widened their musical horizons, encouraging them to purchase music from different artists or from different categories of music (www.insightexpress.com). An online research service according to a survey conducted in late July by Insight Express.
If a technology exists that encourages people to purchase more of something, it won t be long before that revenue will quickly fall into the industry s pockets. In fact, a cash blend might actually enable the recording industry to take more risks when hiring talent. This could spur the revitalization of what now is a creatively crippled industry riding the coattails of one-hit wonders and an endless supply of boy bands. By ignoring these basic economic and creative realities regarding Napster the recording industry is actually encouraging a revolution that might not leave the music business standing. Striking a deal with the Web Site would provide the recording industry with the opportunity to exploit Napster s staggering user base of 20 million. AOL never had the quick success as Napster has found; it took AOL nearly a decade to acquire a user base of that size (Greenfield, Karl). On the other hand, shutting down Napster will not kill the practice of sharing digitalized music, but will instead push the process underground; there are a number of alternatives poised to fill if Napster shutdown. One of the programs that shows that it may have better success then Napster in the copyright battle is Gnutella. Gnutella, for example, is a Napster-like service that eliminates the middleman, or central Web site. Users just share music they ve obtained with each other. Other programs, such as Freenet, go a step further than Gnutella, these services use encryption codes that keep the identities of users concealed (Macko, Lia). The existence and widespread use of such programs would make it difficult for record companies to figure out who is using one of these services to share music files because there is no base server.
Should people be encouraged to steal music files just because they can? Perhaps, there is a difference between sharing and stealing, but how should this effect the way we define intellectual property rights? Though most legal analysts believe the law is on the music industry s side, there is a pro-Napster interpretation supported by the legal authority and case law that governs the intellectual property rights at stake.
According to Greenfield, the right to copy songs for personal, non-commercial use is protected by the 1992 Audio Home Recording Act (AHRA) (Greenfield, Karl). This law makes it legal to create a tape of your very own new Eminem CD so you can listen to Slim Shady in your car on your way to work. The same theory would permit downloading audio files from your computer to a disk so that you can listen to a compilation of your favorite funk songs while working out at the gym. Moreover, since Congress relied on a report by the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) to determine that personal use includes sharing with friends, the widespread sharing of Napster acquired compilations, particularly on college campuses, would be protected by the Act (Greenfield, Karl). In other words, burning CD compilations to share with friends or play at parties via Napster downloads is no different than making tapes from the radio. Along with recording soundtracks, is something college students have spent the better part of many evenings doing for decades. This hobby hasn t harmed the music industry or artists yet. Though the Digital Millennium Act of 1998 exists to address software piracy and the posting of copyrighted material on Web sites (Epperson, Sharon).
It is not clear why or how it applies to Napster; as a business, Napster technically doesn t make any copies of the music. Why then should Napster be held liable, if Xerox isn t? When an individual uses one of the company s machines to copy and distribute protected material? Copyright protections are not absolute, they are made to encourage improvement, while at the same time to, protect the artist. The determining VCR ruling found that a technology is capable of substantial non-infringing uses (Epperson, Sharon). The technology provider cannot be liable for copyright infringement even if it encourages and facilitates infringing activities. In other words, just as the VCR served the legitimate and legal purpose of taping a protected television or movie for personal viewing, Napster permits personal uses protected by current copyright law.
The recording industry should wake up to the realties of the Internet, strike a deal with Napster and consider licensing options that will help recondition the way the public pays for music. Over time, as the Napster technology becomes universal, the public might decide it does not want to pay $16 for a CD with three good tracks; however, it might be willing to pay more for a good song. The recording industry should already be beyond this instead of throwing dollars and energy into a legal battle, it should be plotting a revised e-commerce strategy that is consistent with the rules of the new economy. A compromise would convert Napster s online fan base into a financial and creative victory for all. Napster has also had to deal with being sued. The music industry’s trade group has sued a small start-up company, claiming it is operating as a “haven” for music piracy on the Internet by making illegal copies of MP3 files freely available.
Napster software allows users to log onto its servers and make their personal MP3 collections available to be downloaded by other users. The services, as the RIAA says, “enable and encourage Napster users to download millions of pirated songs as well as make available their own music library for others to copy” (Macko, Lia). The RIAA has fought the pirated use of MP3 files and has been active in the establishment of a group to set standards for digital compression that ensures copyright protection. “Litigation is never our first choice,” Sherman said in the statement. “After a random sampling of thousands of recordings available on Napster revealed the overwhelming majority of recordings Napster was making available were pirated, we contacted the company a number of times, including in writing. But the same recordings we advised Napster were infringing then, are still available today.” (Macko, Lia) However, Napster Chief Executive Officer Eileen Richardson on Wednesday said there had been recent negotiations. “We spent the last ten days writing letters back and forth through our lawyers trying to agree on ground rules for settlement negotiations,” Richardson said (www.napster.com) She declined to discuss details of the lawsuit. Napster publishes a disclaimer on its Web site that says copying or distributing unauthorized MP3 files may violate U.S. and foreign copyright, adding that compliance with the law is the responsibility of the end user. “We index MP3 files, much like Lycos and Yahoo index the Internet,” Richardson said. “I’m not sure why they are picking on us. We’re still in beta test stage.” (www.napster.com). However, the extent of Napster’s involvement in facilitating pirated MP3 files may have to be established in court, says Michael Sobel, an intellectual property lawyer with the firm Graham and James of Palo Alto, California. “If all they did was make a list of MP3 files that exist, it would be hard to make a claim of copyright infringement,” Sobel says. “The question becomes how close they come to allowing other parties to copy files that are copyrighted.” (Macko, Lia) Last year, RIAA sued Diamond Multimedia Systems and its subsidiary Rio Port, claiming MP3-like devices such as the company’s Rio unit facilitated pirating. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in June of this year that Rio did not violate the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992, which governs digital recording devices. (Macko, Lia) However, the Napster lawsuit hinges on copyright law rather than a statutory act, Sobel says. “The Napster claim is much broader,” he adds. (Macko, Lia) The RIAA is also moving forward with the Secure Digital Music Initiative. A group established with music companies and manufacturers to set a standard for music compression that ensures copyright protection. (Macko, Lia)
The facts that weigh in and make the final decision make the difference in the end. The way that the court looks at the information provided and what has been determined from prior experiences will also prove crucial in the verdict. Whether the court sees it as what happened with the blank tape ordeal or that Napster is just plain out violating copyright laws. Many of the facts both strongly support and oppose Napster staying up and running. From what has been determined from now the efforts of Napster won t end with out a long stretched out battle that will take day possibly years to resolve and the outcome is still unknown and could go either way.