Debate On Napster Essay, Research Paper
BREAKING THE CONSTITUTION
The Napster software, which launched in 1999, allows people to share digital music
files (MP3) between each other. This Internet program has sparked a historical debate about
copyright law and the Internet. Copyright owners strongly believe that “sharing” these files
via Napster is “stealing”(TIME).
Downloading music against the wishes of an artist or producer is breaking the law.
Some believe that it is not stealing or illegal. They are just making a copy of someone’s
song. In the Constitution, Article 1, Section 8 it says “……promote the Progress of Science
and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right
to their respective Writings and Discoveries…..” (Constitution). This led to copyright law,
which gives artists the exclusive rights to their music from the moment of its creation until,
generally 70 years after the artist dies (Michigan Review). There may not be respect for the
copyright law, but it is still breaking the law.
According to the Michigan Review, in areas around college campuses and
universities, CD sales have dropped 4%. In 2000, retail CD sales at stores near colleges with
high Napster use are actually below 1997 sales (Michigan Review). That is a huge reversal
in an area that usually sees high demand for music. Also according to the Michigan Review,
CD sales are up 16% across the nation. How can Napster be a bad thing if it is helping the
record industry? Maybe some people buy CDs based on what they hear on Napster, but for
most college students Napster has the opposite effect. Colleges and universities have been
hotbeds for sharing of online music files by a variety of methods for many years. All
Napster and similar tools have done is make this sharing of files much easier (Newsweek).
There are no in-betweens here. In all fairness to the artist, one should make a choice.
They should buy it or delete it from their computer. Some people might not like a song
well enough to want to pay for it so they feel like no one is losing a profit. If one does not
like a song well enough to buy it, they should not even be listening to it. However, consider
this scenario in defense of a Napster user. What if someone only wants one song on a $20.00
CD? Is it fair for the Artist to in essence be charging that person $20.00 for one song? In
this situation the consumer would not purchase the CD therefore the Artist would lose out
any profit. Action must be taken to benefit both the consumer, the Artist and our
Constitutional rights as Americans.
Some artist work for years to establish themselves as a popular musician, spending
untold fortunes on recording equipment, training, marketing, plus thousands of man-hours
on perfecting their craft, only to have their work ripped off by someone. What it all comes
down to is a persons own values. Most people have too few songs in their collection to
worry about being prosecuted. Penalties for copyright infringement are harsh—5 years in
jail, up to $250,000 in fines, and possible statutory damages of up to $150,000 per song
Since the music is “free” it has to be stealing. In America, one does not get anything
for free. People are robbing artists from the pennies they earn on each CD that sells. Many
people believe that it is the same thing as recording a song off the radio. But they came up
with a solution to that problem. Now, artists are compensated every time a song is played
on the radio (Newsweek).
The courts need to find a way to protect artists’ intellectual property rights in the
emerging e-commerce arena. The core of the lawsuit is more about the changes in
technology and new technology (TIME). There has to be a way to reconcile this technology
with artists’ rights. If an artist writes and sings a song and someone else benefits from it
without compensating the artists, the artist is hurt. President Bush comments on the Napster
case by saying, “A way must be found to apply our copyright laws to ensure that artists,
writers, and creators can earn a profit from their creations, while at the same time, adapting
to and utilizing new technologies to deliver media to consumers in an Information Age”
(TIME). According to Newsweek magazine, more than half of the people using Napster do
not feel guilty of violating the copyright law when they are downloading music off the
Internet. The people that use these functions on the net have a very different view of their
rights, and what they think is right, than those that are in the general Internet community.
This is not fair to the recording industry because they are not making any money from it.
Napster should at least charge people a set fee for using it. In return, they can pay the artists’
when someone downloads their music.
Today web users must pay to access certain services such as America On-Line
(AOL), Microsoft Internet Explorer and others. A monthly fee, sometimes based on per-
minute usage or a flat fee, compensates the company for their “copyrighted” material.
Napster, or other similar exchange sites, could charge a monthly fee, transactional fee, or
some combination of both to compensate the artist for their songs. This system would allow
for exchange of one or more songs without obligating a buyer to purchase a whole CD while
compensating the artist.
Americans have many rights granted to them by the United States Constitution.
Diversity, abortion and many other trivial issues relating to a persons individual rights have
been overcome. Copyright issues, although not as extreme as some issues, are very crucial
in this day and age (TIME). Lawmakers must uphold the writers of the constitutions ideas
yet apply them to today’s issues. The Constitution does not grant a right to steal and
expressly speaks to “Authors and Inventors Rights to their respective Writings and
Discoveries…”. It is now up to the lawmakers to allow the constitutional ideas to merge with
that of the new e-commerce business, respect the Constitution of the United States and
compensate those artist, songwriters, and others for their work.
Greenwald, John. “Who Needs Napster.” TIME . 23 October 2000: 22-25/
Sloan, Allan. “Playing Fair With Copyright” Newsweek. Feb. 2001 43-46/
U. S. CONST. art. 1 V ? 8
Schwartz, Scott M.. “The Great Napster Debate.” Michigan Review. October
11-25, 2000. *http