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How And What Is Napster Doing To Infringe On Copyright Laws? Essay, Research Paper

Re: How and What is Napster doing to infringe on Copyright Laws?

Issue: What is Napster? Why is Napster causing such a commotion? What

are they doing about it?

Napster is the world’s leading file sharing community. The Napster

software (http://www.napster.com), launched early in 1999, allows

internet users to share and download MP3 files directly from any

computer connected to the Napster network. The software is used by

downloading a client program from the Napster site and then connecting

to the network through this software, which allows sharing (uploading

and downloading) of MP3 files between all users connected to the

network. While Napster does not condone copyright infringement, there is

no opportunity in the software to stop this, or for royalties to be paid

to artists whose songs are being duplicated for free. Unlike similar

file-sharing applications (Gnutella, Freenet), Napster limits users to

uploading/downloading of MP3 files only. These files are compressed wave

(.wav) files.

The advantage of MP3 files is that they are approximately one-tenth the

size of the

corresponding .wav file and can be close-to-CD-quality. It is for this

reason that many

artists, record labels and other music industry stakeholders are

concerned by the MP3

file format and applications like Napster that simplify the sharing of



What Napster tries to tell its users is that they are not supposed to

use the files on Napster for any Unauthorized copying, distribution,

modification, public display, or public performance of copyrighted works

is an infringement of the copyright holders’ rights. What has happened

to Napster is a Federal Judge in San Francisco issued an injunction

against Napster, effectively shutting down the popular song sharing

service. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the

National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) sued Napster in December

1999, alleging that the service encourages copyright violation, since

Napster allows users to share music files for free. In their motion, the

entertainment industry presented evidence demonstrating ongoing harm to

CD sales, and harm to the emerging legitimate market for downloading

music. Slightly controversially, they also claimed that Napster “leads

to a devaluing of music, as Napster teaches a generation of music

consumers that artists do not deserve to be paid for their work, and

their creative efforts are free for the taking.”

The reaction from recording artists, record labels and other music

industry players has been varied, but primarily anti-Napster. The first

action to be taken against Napster

was by the band Metallica. In April of this year, they sued Napster Inc

for copyright

infringement. The case was settled out of court when Napster agreed to

ban some

300,000 users who had allegedly downloaded Metallica songs. Again in

June Napster Inc

was sued for copyright infringement by The Recording Industry

Association of America

(RIAA), a trade group representing the US recording industry, alleging

“Napster is

enabling and encouraging the illegal copying and distribution of

copyrighted music”.

Napster claims that Audio Home Recording Act that permits copying of

material for

personal use, allows it’s users to swap MP3s. Napster further claims

immunity by defining the company as an ISP under the Digital Millennium

Copyright Act. The RIAA

unsuccessfully applied to have an injunction to stop Napster’s

operations until after the

court case in September, so Napster will continue to operate until (and

if) the court

rules against Napster.

Other artists and record labels

http://www.napster.com/speakout/artists.html and

http://www.napster.com/speakout/labels.html) have responded to the

advent of

Napster and similar applications in a more positive way, embracing the

new technology

rather than rejecting it. On their website, the Offspring says “MP3

technology and

programs such as Napster are a vital and necessary means to promote

music and

foster better relationships with our fans.” Interestingly enough, the

Offspring’s last

album, Americana, was made available online illegally before

commercially released, yet

it is the band’s best-selling album to date. Besides, a number of

surveys have

proven that Napster users actually buy more CDs, after ’sampling’ the

songs online

(http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/1/12093.html). It is this issue

that is at the

basis of the RIAA lawsuit, whether Napster and similar companies will

mean reduced CD sales. Napster does challenge the traditional

distribution of music (CDs, cassettes, vinyl etc) but whether this

should be viewed as a threat or simply a new medium to be

abused by the music industry is another issue. Some record labels, most


Epitaph (http://www.epitaph.com) have partnered with sites like

e-music.com to sell

full albums and single songs in MP3 format over the web. In this case,

the record

company has in fact gained a new distribution method, rather than seeing

it as the

‘enemy’. Of course, in this scenario, the record company still gets a

cut of the profits,

something that artists’ whose songs are downloaded through Napster don’t


Questions Presented:

1. What is the current status of copyright law in America?

2. How exactly has Napster infringed upon any types of Copyright Laws?

3. What are the possible outcomes that Napster might face?


The Current Status of Copyright Law A copyright provides the creator of


intellectual production with ownership and exclusive rights to publish,

print, distribute, or sell the copyrighted material. Intellectual

productions that are eligible for copyright privileges include written

material, written and recorded music, paintings, sculptures,

photographs, movies, videos and video games, computer programs, and many

other mediums of creative expression. To qualify for copyright

protection a work must be creative, exist in physical form, and be

originally produced by the author. A copyright cannot protect ideas,

facts, titles, names, short phrases, or blank forms. Generally,

a copyright is owned by the creator of a work, but

there are some exceptions. If an employee creates a work during the

course of employment, the employer may own the copyright. Likewise, if

an independent contractor creates the work, the copyright may be held by

the commissioning organization. Additionally, if the owner of a

copyright sells the rights to a work, the purchasing party becomes the

copyright owner. In the case that two or more authors

contribute to a joint work, they are considered joint copyright owners

and have equal right to register and enforce the copyright. For works

published after 1977, the copyright is enforceable for the life of the

author plus seventy years. After this time period, the work enters the

“public domain”, and anyone has access to it without infringing on the

copyright. As of March 1, 1989, a published work is automatically

protected as soon as it is created. It is advantageous, however, to

register the work with the U.S. Copyright Office for a number of



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