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The Mp3 Controversy Essay, Research Paper

A major news item lately has been what is called The MP3 Controversy. It is based on the free trade of music files known as MP3s, which are small enough to be easily downloaded but have the same quality as a compact disc. Computer users are able to download these files from the internet and then burn them onto CDs that can be played in any regular CD player. Bands and record labels claim that internet users do not have the right to download these files unless they own the CD that the song is on. These users say that information is public domain and information is all they are trading.

A program that makes this very easy to do, known as Napster, has been sued by a group of bands and record labels for trafficking in copyrighted goods that they do not have the right to make money from. Napster maintains otherwise. Their website, http://www.napster.com says:

The MP3 files that you locate using Napster are not stored on Napster’s servers. Napster does not, and cannot, control what content is available to you using the Napster browser. Napster users decide what content to make available to others using the Napster browser, and what content to download. Users are responsible for complying with all applicable federal and state laws applicable to such content, including copyright laws.

They also give instructions on how to report copyright infringement, and they say that Napster respects copyright law and expects our users to do the same, and as a condition to your account with Napster, you agree that you will not use the Napster service to infringe the intellectual property rights of others in any way. However, almost everyone who does use Napster contradicts this immediately. Almost no one goes onto Napster to download MP3 files of unsigned bands.

Some college students, using the broadband internet connections they are provided, have downloaded gigabytes of MP3s. A regular three-minute song takes up approximately two megabytes of space. This translates into these college students having upwards of five hundred songs they have not paid for on their computers. Some say that unless someone makes money in the transaction, the transfer of a music file is legal. However, doesn’t the money the record company and band would have made count as someone making money by not having to spend it? These are the arguments being presented in the case against Napster.

A major example of this battle is what the band Metallica did to its fans that downloaded their songs through Napster. They came to Napster s offices with a truckload of paper covered with the names of people who had illegally downloaded any of their songs, and demanded that all of these people have their Napster accounts removed. Surprisingly enough, Napster complied. However, it did not really do anything as Napster membership is free and all that they require you to tell them is your email address. I could get a new email address in about five minutes.

I am even guilty of illegally downloading songs myself. I have the Napster client, and I have used it to download copyrighted music to my computer. I have even burned it onto CDs and listened to them on my CD player. However, for all the CDs I have burned from files off Napster, I have later bought the CD from a regular music store. In my opinion, the trading of MP3s should not be illegal because much of the time, it works like the radio in making people more eager to buy the CD as opposed to less.

The people who download these songs are not criminals, and neither are the people who run the Napster client. They are no different from the people who swap tapes of the Grateful Dead in concert, or who make tapes of CDs to give to their friends. When everything starts to be regulated for fear of copyright infringement, there will be nothing left to download.

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