Napster: Information Superhighway Robbery?

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Sean Fanning had no idea of the amount of turmoil that the creation of Napster would cause. Full-length songs were being exchanged in a matter of minutes, and neither the artists nor the record companies were seeing a cent of it. With the widespread popularity of Internet file sharing the music population was divided. People either saw the program as a Godsend that would save them from wallet gouging CD prices or a new-aged form of robbery. From the money-hungry record company executive to the eleven year-old kid waiting forty minutes to download the latest BB Mac hit, it seems that almost everyone has a stance on Napster. The difficulty lies in appeasing all parties affected by the Internet file sharing. Though the record companies and others interested in the financial aspect of music are reluctant to adapt, they will inevitably be forced to do so by the evolution of technology. The word "Napster" originated as creator Sean Fanning's grade school nickname. It was a remark made in regard to Fanning's hairstyle and was meant to jilt his focus on the basketball game at hand. Since then "Napster" had been his nickname. When Fanning's Internet file sharing program was launched in 1998 it inherited the title.

Fanning was enrolled at Northeastern University and was majoring in computer science when he created the program. He sought a challenge beyond his entry-level classes. Thus came the idea for Napster. Fanning's roommate had been using Internet technology quite frequently to download and play MP3s (music files). The problem was that the sites he was using were unreliable and often out of date. After surveying several Internet users via chat rooms Fanning had collected enough information to begin work on his masterpiece. His idea was to have a program that searched for other user's on the "net" that possessed MP3 files. It would ask the user which files they wished to share with others and then would make those available for download. The program would survey the available files each time the user logged on, thus eliminating out of date links.

Fanning wanted to see if he could turn his thoughts into a reality. He left Northeastern with no intention of professionally developing the program, and was only interested in testing his new pilot program for efficiency and popularity. After sending the program to a few friend who continued to send it to other friends the "bugs" were worked out and Fanning was receiving nothing but positive response. With the help of his uncle, Fanning incorporated Napster in May of 1999. The program took off from there. Office space was obtained for the corporate use, and Fanning moved out to California. Before its lawsuit induced downfall "Napster" was simultaneously harboring over 800,000 users. Despite its popularity, not everyone was thrilled with Napster and other file sharing communities. Retail stores are not pleased with the introduction of file sharing programs. The music manager at Media Play in Enfield, CT states, " I was reading in Billboard magazine that the record industry has lost something like 6 billion dollars on Internet file sharing already. That works out to like 100,000 dollars for this store alone." He also said that Media Play has made no official statement on Napster and other sharing services. While they are affected by the loss of sales, retail stores are not taking much action, because they do not own the music and only sell it. The ones who do own the music are the record companies and the artists themselves. The record companies have been the loudest voice of opposition and yet the most unwillingly to compromise. They say that the program enables users to violate copyright laws, and thus cut into profits. Under the law these companies are justified. The Copyright Act of 1976 states that owners have five exclusive rights:

1.Only the copyright owner may reproduce or make copies of the work 2.Only the copyright owner may create...
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