Analysis of Napster Case
December 1, 2011
Napster was the first generation of peer-to-peer file sharing networks. Napster had a central server based model that linked their users who had files with those who requested files. So when a user is searching for a file, the server would find all of the available copies of that certain file and present them to the user. The files could therefore be transferred between two home computers. Because of the use of the central server Napster was filed with copyright infringements and many ethical breaches were made.
The music industry was concerned of the sharing of MP3 and peer to peer file sharing technology because it gave unauthorized quality copies of their copyrighted music to people who didn’t purchase the tracks (Zepeda, 2002). They also feared that they would loose control of how the music is distributed to the consumers. Being able to locate your favorite album or music track was now accessible to download which normally you could not do without traditionally purchasing the album (Zepeda, 2002).
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was created in 1998 to protect the ISP of the potential liability of copyright infringement of their users and to continue to encourage new technology that uses and shares copyrighted works (Zepeda, 2002). According to Zepeda (2002):
In order for an ISP to be protected by DMCA Napster had to fit one of two definitions of a service provider. It must be either “an entity offering the transmission, routing, or providing connections for digital online communications, between or among points specific by a user’s choosing, without modification to the content of the material as sent or received”, or “a provider of online services or network access, or the operator of facilities therefore” (p.75).
Our team has familiarized and researched all necessary information regarding the legal repercussions in the Napster case to provide a complete situational analysis that includes
Napster was originally founded and developed by Shawn Fanning in the early 1999s. It provided a software platform for users that enabled them to download MP3 files from each other’s computers (peer-to-peer sharing) for free. Unlike other peer-to peer services that eliminated the need for a central server, Napster provided central indexing server that enabled for easier file searches and larger amount of users (Tyson). Napster quickly became very popular and soon after becoming available for use it had thousands of users sharing thousands of MP3 files every minute. This created an issue with the music industry because neither the music industry nor the artists were getting compensated for the copies made so the Napster was sued for contributory and vicarious infringement. Even though the case is known as A&M Records, Inc. v. Napster the list of plaintiffs in the District Court suit were: A & M RECORDS,INC., Geffen Records, Inc., Interscope Records, Sony Music Entertainment, Inc., MCA Records, Inc., Atlantic Recording Corporation, Island Records, Inc., Motown Records Company L.P., Capitol Records,La Face Records, BMG Music d/b/a The RCA Records Label, Universal Records Inc., Elektra Entertainment Group Inc., Arista Records, Inc., Sire Records Group, Inc., Polygram Records, Inc., Virgin Records America, Inc., and Warner Bros. Records Inc (“Napster Cases”). The suits led to a court order requiring the shutdown of Napster services in order to stop copyright infringement (Evangelista, 2002). In order to survive and enable the company to continue to make money Napster decided to change the service they offered to a payable service that would charge users for downloading music.
Legal and Ethical Issues
This case presents a handful...