Legal Vs. Illegal Essay, Research Paper
Legal vs. Illegal (Napster vs. Music Industry)
The issues that will be slugged out in federal district court in San Francisco sound a little too pop culture to be all that serious. How many music CDs are people buying these days in record stores throughout the nation because of Napster? Is the technology that Napster uses legal? Napster is, of course, the wildly popular file-sharing service whose 20 million users have downloaded some half a billion songs–most copyrighted for free. The technology that Napster has brought to music listeners across the globe has allowed the freedom of obtaining music for free and should not be shut down by the entertainment industry’s argument in federal court.
The laws that support a technology like Napster argue the legality issue of Napster; Napster is legal. The general idea of Napster’s argument is that there are enough exemptions in the copyright laws to permit Napster to exist. As long as a user of Napster is using the program for personal use and does not gain proceeds from it the program is not being used illegally. Napster cites the 1992 Audio Home Recording Act, which allows anyone to copy music for “noncommercial use”(Kahn 50). This act basically states that anyone may record music for personal use, but not for a profit of any kind. The act also makes no mention of the number of copies that may be made. Secondly, Napster’s argument rests on another act applied to Internet service providers and search engines. Napster is not responsible for its user actions with the materials that they (the user) retrieves using Napster. The 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act states that, “a search engine is exempt from copyright claims if the company that owns it is unaware that the information the engine retrieves violates copyrights (Kahn 51).” Napster barely meets the definition of an Internet service provider; although it is considered a search engine because of its browser capabilities. Basically theses two acts state that Napster is neither liable for its users actions and allows its users to record music (using Napster) for their private use. These are major laws that help support Napster and digital recording efforts.
Many artists themselves are pro-Napster in many aspects of what they think it brings society. Napster allows for individuals to hear and experience different forms of music; therefore purchasing and promoting artists work. Some artists argue that it allows the public to be attentive to music that artists are putting out on the market. Fred Durst from Limp Bizkit said, “We believe that the Internet and Napster should not be ignored by the music industry as tools to promote awareness for bands and market music” (Napster 1). Fred Durst was describing how the music industry needs to recognize Napster as a type of advertisement of their product. Madonna was also quoted saying; “Napster could be a great way for people to hear your music who wouldn’t have the chance to hear it on the radio” (Napster 1). This quote from Madonna helps to describe how people are enabled to hear music from different artists through Napster allowing artists to be heard and be recognized by the public. Chuck D also supported Napster’s use replying, “We should think of (Napster) as a new kind of radio—a promotional tool that can help artists who don’t have the opportunity to get their music played on mainstream radio or on MTV be recognized” (Napster 2). Chuck D also expresses the idea of Napster as a promotional tool for artists. Intern allowing listeners too experience new genres of music and artists to be heard. Other artists have supported Napster saying that is a free trade community of music and should not be shut down. Wasn’t one of the first things we were taught as a child was to share? This is what the users of Napster are doing; there just sharing music files not committing crimes. Dave Matthews describes technologies and events that occur in the music industry that are like Napster saying, “There are a lot of bigger problems in the world than whether Napster succeeds or fails…I don’t think there is a malice coming out of Napster. We allow people to tape our concerts. But my thinking was that it only makes people want to buy more and increases the devotion of people who are going to listen to us” (Napster 1). Dave Matthews said Napster is exactly what Napster itself is trying to prove in court; that it is a legal free-trade community. Courtney Love supports Napster in the legality of trading music saying, “Stealing our copyright provisions in the dead of night when no-one is looking is piracy. It’s not piracy when kids swap music over the Internet using Napster. There were one billion downloads last year, but music sales are way up, so how is Napster hurting the music industry? It’s not. The only people who are scared of Napster are the people who have filler on their albums and are afraid that if people hear more than one single they’re not going to buy the album” (Napster 2). Courtney Love tells the truth about what Napster is and what it stands for, by backing it up with physical evidence. All four of these artist allow for the courts to have an insight into the artists point of view and how Napster as a technology is not hurting the music industry, but supporting not only struggling artists but well known artists as well.
The other major point that defends Napster is the previous case about a new technology which the entertainment industry took to court. Napster’s users are not doing anything worse than if they recorded a video tape or a cassette tape for themselves. In 1984 the movie companies tried to stop Sony from selling VCRs because they feared widespread copying of movies and television shows (Kahn 50). The Sony Betamax case ruled that, “new technologies should not be judicially banned (or re-engineered) unless the only substantional use of which they are capable is unlawful” (Fitzpatrick10). This ruling of this past court case easily defends Napster, as long as it is not used for an illegal action that would violate copyright laws. This piece of evidence used in the court case against Napster is the main argument that Napster is a legal technology.
Compromises and contradictions towards Napster are simple, but do not overcome the total argument that Napster has against the music industry. The big concern for the music industry is that the future presence of Napster may start a loss of profits for the music industry because of the supposed illegal replication that Napster users carry out. Although most users use Napster and still buy recordings, some may never buy a recording again causing the music industry’s minor profit losses. The music companies have collected surveys that suggest the rate at which people will buy their music will decrease by 3.2% each year (AAP 1). This is the first slip in Napster’s argument, but doesn’t allow much space for the music industry to inch ahead in this court case. The information presented by the music industry may not be a legitimate survey of the public. Although the majority of individuals may not commit illegal crimes with Napster some may use it illegally. The feud of whether or not Napster is being used illegally by some users is the music industry’s major argument(Fitzpatrick 10). The only difficulty is that this kind of illegal use is untraceable on a technology like Napster (Kahn 51). If this kind of music piracy is committed there is really no way to apprehend the user. The issue of piracy of the music industry’s product is the true evidence that goes against Napster and digital recording of music. These are the major points that are against Napster’s argument, but does not really give up all that much round because of its other arguments to defend itself.
As the court case arrives, the question that people will ponder is, “Is Napster really legal?” The answer to this question is yes. With all of the points that the Napster attorneys have to back up the technology of Napster and its browser capabilities, it should and will win this battle in federal court.
AAP. “Artist Against Piracy” Launch National Media Campaign On The Issue Of Music And The Internet. [Online] Available.http://www.artists against piracy.com/news/press.html, October 27, 2000.
Fitzpatrick, Eileen. “Napster Appeal May Hinge On Sony Betamax”Billboard 23 September 2000, Vol. 112 Issue 39, 10.
Kahn, Jeremy. “Proving Napster Legal Is A Tough Job For Boies”Fortune 02 October 2000, Vol.142 Issue 7, 50-51.
Napster.Artists Sound Off. [Online] Available.http://www.napster.com/speakout/artists.html, October 26, 2000.