December 10, 2000
Napster, a file-sharing program for music, is being sued by the RIAA for
copyright infringement. A court has
already ruled that Napster is in violation of these laws and has ordered it to
shut down its servers to prevent further copyright infringement, although this
will barely hamper the efforts of the real pirates. The RIAA, the recording
industry’s trade organization, is trying to capitalize on the Internet while
trying to stop others from doing so as well. What the RIAA fails to realize is
that the Internet is based on file-sharing, and that there are many better ways
to pirate the songs it releases. I
believe the RIAA should find the real perpetrators of this crime and prosecute
a United States court stated that Napster, an online music- sharing program,
should shutdown its servers, thus stopping its near 35 million users from
trading music with each other. Napster’s
nemesis in this court case is the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of
America), who believe the program Napster should be banned for copyright
infringement. Although this appears to be a simple issue of copyright
infringement, it isn’t. Many people have stakes in this issue, and all want
their views heard and ruled upon. The purpose of this report is to analyze the
lawsuit, the program’s merits and faults, and the RIAA’s complaints. This
report will research the sides in this issue, examine their points of view, as
well as explain why Napster should not be a priority concern of the RIAA.
Napster-The Person, The Program, and how they benefit the music industry
explaining Napster it must be understood that it is more then just a program. At
the Napster home page it states that Napster was the online pseudonym of Shawn
Fanning, the programmer who wrote Napster the program. During his first year as
a student at Northeastern University, Fanning, like most students, was trading
MP3’s via the internet. At the time though, sharing files was hard and very
unreliable so “ looking for a challenge beyond entry-level courses”, he
decided to write an easy to use program himself.(Testimony of) The result was
both extraordinary and revolutionary.
programmer himself, Napster the program was innovative. Napster himself wrote an article on the
Napster website stating his program is much like the IRC (internet relay chat),
where almost anything is traded online, yet unlike the IRC, it is not a
difficult command-based program where things are hard to find (Testimony of).
Napster, a windows-like program
with a GUI (Graphic user interface), with point and click actions make
searching, downloading, or uploading very easy.
This probably explains Napster’s widespread use; it is an easy to use
program that is specialized enough to only search for what people want.
Secondly, Napster the program used a new way of logging people’s files and
transferring them. It uses a
central server that logs all users’ shared song names (Horiuci, Vincent), and
when searching for songs, one only searches the central server’s list. Napster
the program didn’t change anything on the Internet. Before there was Napster
there were many ways to download songs, for instance: FTP, IRC, and websites.
After Napster there will be even more. If Napster is banned it will not stop the
supposed copyright infringement, it will hardly even put a dent in it. The only
thing Napster accomplished was to invent a new, innovative, easy to use program
that anyone regardless of skill could enjoy.
Napster is not only a program, or a person, but it has become a huge community of people. Napster is like a Utopia of the Internet where most people go to exchange ideas, tastes, and differences in music, while sharing it. Personally, since using Napster, I have opened my own narrow mind regarding music and have started listening to many different types of music. Napster is actually helping the music industry. Many people I know, after using Napster, have went out and bought instruments, turntables, mixers, and other electronic music makers, as well as various genres of music albums.
RIAA-Background and it’s complaint against Napster
On the RIAA homepage, the RIAA characterize themselves as:
"...the trade group that represents the U.S. recording industry. Our mission is to foster a business and legal climate that supports and promotes our members' creative and financial vitality. Our members are the record companies that comprise the most vibrant national music industry in the world. RIAA® members create, manufacture and/or distribute approximately 90% of all legitimate sound recordings produced and sold in the United States.”(Mission Statement)
The RIAA is the primary group responsible for most of the music we hear. The hierarchical structure of the RIAA appears to be set up with it being the parent body of all the recording companies, almost a massive law office of sorts (Hilary B. Rosen), with the major record companies as its directing parties. The artists, at the bottom, are sunk way down low like the peasants of medieval times. The RIAA decides who is going to make it in the “business” and hence they decide what it is that we can purchase. Understandably, the artists do need someone to fight for their cause, but the RIAA has become too powerful.
The RIAA “charges the file-sharing software maker (Napster) with contributory and vicarious copyright infringement”(Doug Reece) and claim that they are losing money due to Napster’s widespread use among college students.(Report of) These statistics, which were compiled by the music stat compiler Soundscan, suggest that college students are purchasing less CD’s, but fails to cite Napster as the primary culprit behind these issues.
The RIAA is
also worried about On-line piracy, and what they call CD-R Piracy. On-line
piracy is something not even an organization as big as the RIAA can stop, it is
a widespread problem in every media industry. So many people with different
natures and skills are pirating everything online from retail music albums to
Sony Playstation Games. CD-R Piracy is a huge problem. As CD burner technology
gets better; the burners get faster, less complicated, and cheaper. Anyone with
a computer can purchase a CD burner, and for less then one dollar per CD can
start burning information of various sorts onto the recordable Discs (CD-R
Piracy). Both of these issues are
rampant in society today, and both issues of piracy could be aided with the use
Conclusion-the RIAA should pursue the Real Criminals
For the RIAA to sue Napster is ludicrous. Napster’s only crime is being a popular and easy program that is built on the foundations of file-sharing. The real criminals are: the people who are stealing the albums before their release, the people who convert the retail version into compressed MP3’s, plus the individuals who neglect every software disclaimer (Napster, INC. End User Software License Agreement) they read, and neglect to delete their files after 24 hours. The RIAA blames Napster for the theft of so many tunes but they neglect to blame the developers of the internet who originally envisioned file-sharing.
RIAA is basically suing for their loss of profits yet their CEO Hilary Rosen
states on their Homepage:
“Despite the excitement felt by
music lovers and record companies alike over the positive potential of the
Internet, for the time-being, loyalty to the physical product remains as is
evident by the midyear shipment numbers". (2000 Midyear Market Report on U.S. Recorded
this is an issue of money, and it appears the RIAA’s motive is to protect its own self-interests,
which trickles down to being the artists. If the RIAA is looking for
someone to blame it should be itself, for it is the organization that lacked the
foresight and ability to capitalize on the internet.
Midyear Market Report on U.S. Recorded Music Shipments”, RIAA Homepage,
RIAA, (November 20, 2000), < http://www.riaa.com/MD-US-3b-00-Mid.cfm>
“CD-R Piracy.”, RIAA Homepage, RIAA, (November 16, 2000) <http://www.riaa.com/Protect-CDR.cfm>
Fanning Shawn, “Napster, INC. End User Software License Agreement”,
Napster Version 2B7, Napster, Software Program, 2000, (November 20, 2000),Windows 9x, http://www.napster.com/downloads
Hedrick, Charles L., “What is TCP/IP”, Introduction To Internet Protocols, Steven E.
Newton, The University of New Jersey, (November 16, 2000)
“Hilary B. Rosen, President and CEO.”, RIAA Homepage, RIAA, (November 15, 2000),
Horiuci, Vincent, “Napster Whiz to Testify On Net’s Future.”, The Salt Lake Tribune
(November 13, 2000) <http://www.sltribune.com/2000/oct/10082000/nation_w/31168.htm>
“Mission Statement.”, RIAA Homepage, RIAA, (November 12, 2000),
Reece, Doug, “RIAA Sues Napster.”, Mp3.com Homepage, (December 8, 1999),
(November 19, 2000) <http://www.mp3.com/news/471.html)
“Report Of Michael Fine.”, RIAA Homepage, RIAA, (November 22, 2000),
“Testimony of Shawn Fanning.”, Napster Homepage, Napster
(November 12 2000)<http://www.napster.com/pressroom/001013.html>