To Download or Not to Download - Revised!!!

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The Internet is an extremely useful resource. Using it, one can obtain information on nearly any topic. A relatively new item of Internet technology for sharing music has emerged and brought with it, countless legal debates: Napster. Napster allows people to share music files, discover new artists, and become part of the online-music community. Although Napster's opponents argue that sharing music files is immoral and should cease immediately, the positive elements that Napster brings to the Internet overshadow any regret for its use.

Marc Geiger, executive of "Artist Direct," an online music-marketing firm and Napster champion, states, "Napster is totally community oriented. It brings artists and fans together, and can allow struggling musicians a chance to be heard; that's what the program is all about. The more people hear the songs, the more they want {to} buy the CD" (Sullivan). Struggling musicians who do not receive widespread media coverage to enhance their own album sales find Napster invaluable (Sullivan). These avid Napster supporters can use the medium to distribute and publicize their music with literally no cost (Sullivan). Richardson, CEO of Napster, Inc., is promoting the good side of the software, and trying to make upset artists understand that this program is for the little guys (Sullivan). Richardson maintains that Napster will not hinder music sales, but will have an opposite effect (Sullivan).

Napster is an MP3 file-sharing program that enables users to share their music with one another. Anyone with a computer can download the program, sign the user agreement contract and then start swapping music. The program includes chat features, top music sharing lists, search capabilities, charts showing the status of the file transfer, and other assisting utilities (Allen). The chat rooms allow users to converse and exchange information with other people "in" the room (Allen). The search feature allows the music consumer to search by song title, artist, along with a myriad of other variables. The file transfer element of the program allows listeners to manage file downloads (files which they are receiving) and uploads (files which others are copying) (Allen). Napster also includes a "library," a utility for sorting and listing music files stored on a given computer (Allen). Napster users can also listen to their newly downloaded files with Naptster's built in mp3-player (Allen). The program is easy to use and does not contain too much technical jargon (Allen).

A Northeastern student named Shawn Fanning developed Napster in his college dorm room to share ideas and music with his friends. He wanted to be able to play his friends' music without having to constantly borrow their CDs and cassettes (Allen). Napster allowed him to do just that (Sullivan). The program that Fanning developed allows users to transfer easily MP3 music files from one computer hard drive to the next. An MP3 file is simply a compressed version of a file found on a common compact disc. MP stands for MPEG (Motion Picture Experts Group), the developers of the compression technology, and three refers to the number of audio layers (Allen). "MP3 files are about one-tenth the size of uncompressed audio files" (Allen). One minute of mp3-compressed music consumes roughly one megabyte (1024 kilobytes) of memory with MP3 compression; uncompressed, the same one-minute would take up to ten times that amount of memory on the computers hard drive (Allen).

The bad rap that Napster has built up is due to allegedly "pirated MP3 files" and the outcry of major recording artists. David Weekly, the Napster's audio consultant said, "this is a really awful move on the RIAA's [(Recording Industry Association of America)] part. If what they're trying to do is prevent programs like Napster from coming out, they backfired and gave every teenage hacker the incentive to write their own [program]" (Sullivan). Weekly emphasizes that any media attention is good...
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