To Download or Not to Download

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The Internet is an extremely useful resource to obtain information on just about any topic. A relatively new feature of the World Wide Web is the technology for the sharing of music in MP3 format. A popular site to download "free" music is called Napster. This program allows people to share music files, discover new artists, and become part of the music community. Although Napster is controversial, the program should still remain accessible to Internet users and music lovers.

Marc Geiger, a supporter of the program, states that "Napster is ‘totally community oriented," ("Napster…"). 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" ("Napster…"). The struggling musicians who aren't making millions from one CD release are the avid supporters of Napster. Richardson is promoting the good side of the software, and trying to make upset artists understand that this program is for the little guys. "Its software aims to make finding MP3 files easier one the Net" (RIAA). Another advantage of the program is that it allows finding music files easier instead of having to search the entire World Wide Web.

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, a top music sharing list, searching capabilities, a chart that shows the status of the file transfer, a "library," and a help section. The chat rooms allow for conversation between the different users, and shows information on the people in the room. The search feature allows the music consumer to search by song title, artist, bit rate, ping time, and connection. The file transfer element of the program allows the customer to see how much of the file is downloaded, the estimated time for the transfer to finish, the name of the host of the music, how big the file is, and the filename, (song title, and artist usually). The "library" is a music file holder that sorts the downloaded music files alphabetically. It allows has a music player, which can play an assortment of already downloaded music chosen by the consumer in any order. The program is easy to use and does not contain too much technical jargon. Napster could be considered a support group for music consumers in that they can connect with one another and share ideas along with music.

A Northeastern student named Shawn Fanning developed Napster in a college dorm room to share ideas and music with his friends. He wanted to be able to play a friend's song without having to constantly borrow the CD. "Napster software combines chat features and a music player, lets users share their MP3 libraries with each other"("RIAA…"). The program that Fanning developed uses MP3 music files to transfer from one computer hard drive to the next. An MP3 file is simply a compressed file. MP stands for MPEG (Motion Picture Experts Group), and three refers to the number of layers. "MP3 files are about one-tenth the size of uncompressed audio files" ("Mp3 Music…"). One minute of music on a compact disc takes up about 1 megabyte of memory with MP3 compression; without it the same one-minute would take up to 10 megabytes of memory on the computers hard drive ("What it…").

The bad rap that Napster has built up is due to the "pirated MP3 files" and major artists creating negative media attention. David Weekly, the company's audio consultant said, "this is a really awful move on the RIAA's part. If what they're trying to do is prevent programs like Napster from coming out, they gave every teenage hacker the incentive to write their own" ("RIAA…"). Weekly emphasizes that any media attention is good attention. Due to Napster's success, three other music file sharing sites became known for distributing...
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