Napster is the biggest
revolution to happen to the music industry since the first vinyl record
was pressed. That first recording shaped the way we as consumers
have consumed music. Napster will and is revolutionising this.Here I will
look at what Napster is, the future of napster and the contrasting views
that are being debated at this moment in a Californian Court.
The above diagram shows how Napster works. It was the brainchild
of a 19 year old University Student named Shawn Fanning. Now a multi millionaire,
Fanning turned a good idea into one of the most powerful influences in
the music industry and Napster is still in beta.
It differs to what was already up on the internet because it offers
peer to peer exchange. Your PC becomes the server, it is what is known
as content at the edge. Before you could download MP3 files from say a
central server but you were limited to what that server had, this is known
as content at the centre. With Napster however the only communication you
have with a central server is the Napster database itself. This has no
real content, it justs acts as a directory for your request and points
you in the right direction. The idea of content at the edge is fundamental
to the legal battle. Napster itself doesn't actually have any illegal content,
it just tells you where to get it!
So in short, what is Napster? Well its an application that gives you
access to thousands of others users hard drives/ servers and thus access
to their MP3 audio files. It opens a peer to peer link from you and some
other user allowing you to download a copy of a file on their PC to your
PC or vice versa.
However Napster is much more than this. It is a community, it's a revolution
and the beginning of the end of how we consume music today.
The Court Battle
As Napster built up a head of steam and started to make an impact questions
were asked about the legality of their actions. Surely it couldn't be legal
to give people access to copyrighted music for free. Napster used the loop
hole I mentioned before. Their case was that they could not be liable because
they don't actually have any of the copyrighted music. If legal action
were to be taken up it would have to be against the huge volume of users
that Napster has and not Napster itself.
A task to arduous for most, except for Metallica. Some artists agree
with the music revolution whereas some don't. Metallica, probably the biggest
heavy metal band in America, strongly disaggreed with Napsters point of
view. Thus the Lawsuits insued.
The recording industry filed a response to Napster's legal defense
twist, rejecting the software company's position that it bears no liability
for the music traded by its users because the practice is legal. Napster
filed a brief on July 3 2000 claiming that the online trading of digital
music files falls within the parameters of the Audio Home Recording Act
of 1992, which permits copying music for personal use.
The RIAA, which has sued Napster of behalf of its members for copyright
infringement, responded that the federal law provides no legal haven for
such action. "The truth is, the making and distributing of unauthorized
copies of copyrighted works by Napster users is not "sharing," any more
than stealing apples from your neighbor's tree is "gardening," the RIAA
wrote in its reply, which was filed in U.S. District Court here on Thursday.
Indeed, the RIAA points in the reply that Napster's own Web site contains
a warning to users that unauthorized copying of copyrighted works constitutes
infringement, a cautionary note seemingly at odds with Napster's current
defense strategy. But Napster continues to defend its users'
practice of creating digitized music collections and sharing them online.
"If the RIAA were to prevail with the argument made in their filing yesterday,
even the simple act of copying a song from a CD onto a computer hard drive
in the MP3 format would not be protected by law," Napster officials said
in a statement released Friday. The RIAA maintains that Napster,
which claims to have 20 million users, contributes to vicarious and contributory
copyright infringement by providing a directory of available copyrighted
music that can be downloaded for free directly from each user's computers.
The court battle rages on and will do for the foreseeable future.
The future of Napster is in the air. However I think that it is so revolutionary
that this particular technological advancement should not be subjected
to such menial copyright laws. Napster is the future of music.For too long
the music buying public have had to buy music in album format. Artists
make an album, it consists maybe of a few desirable songs and the rest
of the songs are not so desirable. However we have had to purchase the
whole album to hear the music we want to hear. This is unfair, you
are buying music you don't want and furthermore you are buying music you
haven't heard before. Napster changes this. It's the new radio. I own the
Napster software and treat it like a radio. If I'm interested in a song
I will download it to listen to it. I see Napster as a great medium for
artists to get thier music out there. The songs I download introduce me
to an artist whose album I will purchase on the strength of these songs,
not as before on the strength of a single or a biased review.
A case in point is Radiohead. A huge band this side of the atlantic
but in the US they were never concieved as anything special. True enough
they were beginning to break the states but a number one album in the states
was surely beyond them. Not so. The album in Question is "Kid A" and was
until recently number one in the US charts since the day of its release.
The same album was available via Napster for weeks before its release and
became the most downloaded album at the time. Napster was brilliant publicity
for "Kid A" in fact it was one of the few things that happened to make
people aware of its release.
The RIAA are fighting a battle against themselves, and an expensive
battle at that. Record sales have gone up since Napsters widespread use,
I personally have bought more albums since I downloaded the software. Napster
is very exciting and we are seeing the beginning of a very exciting time
Even if Napster is shut down, this won't end the revolution, it will
simply cutail it. Technology moves faster than any laws and it will move
equally fast around them if it has to. The technology is there to implement
a big turnaround in the way we consume music, we just have to let everybody
adjust to the change. There are many paths we could be led down, like pay
per download for example but one thing is sure, technology will ensure
we don't stand still, it's an exciting time for music.