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Ethical Dilemma of Napster

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Ethical Dilemma of Napster

The ethical dilemma of computer downloads, namely music downloads, has been under great scrutiny in the last few years. Napster, if any one symbolizes the new technology, was the front runner in developing the new digital trading. The ethical issues seem to revolve around the all mighty dollar. Some particular musicians, namely Lars Ulrich from Metallica and Dr. Dre (rap star), have had some serious issues with Napster. Their claims have merit, but so do the claims of the creator and users of Napster.

Napster was created in 1999 by a college dropout named Sean Fanning. Napster allows users to swap digital song files over the internet easily and most of all free. Millions of people used Napster to retrieve almost any song a person could think of, for example, songs that are current number one hits to the other songs from the "one-hit-wonders." Napster created a way for people world wide to exchange or share music files quickly and easily. This causes the ethical dilemma on whether trademark rights are being infringed or is "sharing" the music files legal and ethical.

In 1984, the Supreme Court allowed the public to use the VCR to record televisions shows as long as it was not intended for commercial use. In 1992, "the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992 made it clear that you can use a digital audio tape player or other similar gadgets to record digital music for personal, noncommercial use. So there's plenty of precedent for song swapping." This is a major part in the creation and use of Napster. These acts state everything the Mr. Fanning needs to know he thought. The musicians thought otherwise.

The previously mentioned artists are highly upset about the sharing software. Lars Ulrich is the drummer for the band Metallica. He seems to be the spokesman for the pending law suits. Ulrich says,"With each project, we go through a grueling creative process to achieve music that we feel is representative of Metallica at that very moment in our lives, we take our craft -- whether it be the music, the lyrics, or the photos and artwork -- very seriously, as do most artists. It is therefore sickening to know that our art is being traded like a commodity rather than the art that it is. From a business standpoint, this is about piracy -- a/k/a taking something that doesn't belong to you; and that is morally and legally wrong. The trading of such information -- whether it's music, videos, photos, or whatever - is, in effect, trafficking in stolen goods." This point of view is legitimate. The understanding that Metallica's music is representative to that group at that particular time is acceptable, but there is also the understanding that the band is going to sell the music in the future. If the music is a private matter, then it shouldn't be sold. To many people, all of this talk is just a way to keep money rolling in for the band. The issue here is that the band doesn't want their product dispersed unless they are getting paid for it. The copyright protects the band from someone else making profit from their product, but the ethical dilemma is whether or not someone else wants to share their product for no money at all. Most of the musicians that are having a problem with Napster seem to be rather wealthy, but this is no reason to have their products stolen or given away. The thought of stealing music is in a sense misleading. If someone steals a car, clothing, or even music CD's, then the other person has lost that product. Is stealing an athletic move from an NBA or NFL star illegal? When you copy that song or that athletic move, then the musician or athlete still has the song or move. Neither of them has lost anything. They both are intangible products, and both are still marketable individuals or groups. Kind of a stretch, but the point makes sense. The side of the musicians is the fact that their intellectual property has been stolen. For example," You make a neat little video and show it to some friends. A music-video broadcasting company hears about it and offers you big bucks to air it first. But your friends already put it on the Web. It quickly becomes so popular that the broadcaster calls off the deal since it's not new any more. You haven't lost any stuff." This is also a very valid point.

When an individual buys a music CD, who does that music belong too? That person can take their CD to their friends or relatives house and make them a copy with their computer CD burner. The same concept is being practiced here. If ten different people make a list of what each of their music collections include, then they can trade, copy, and swap to their discretion. It is legal, but is it ethical. Napster had the same concept in mind. He would make an index from millions of persons' collections and allow them to trade, share, and even gain without sharing music. These activities are being seen as computer piracy; others say no harm, no foul. Artists are still making money.

Record labels and artists claimed that Napster caused a major loss of profits when their records still showed substantial gains. "Meanwhile, supporters of Napster claimed



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