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Napster Legality

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Napster & Peer-to-peer File Sharing...

A Crime?? Not According to the facts.

Most people who have been paying any attention to the news have heard of an online service called Napster. Although Napster may have millions of members, many people have absolutely no idea what Napster is, or why it is the topic of so much controversy. In recent months, the music industry has faced several pressing issues involving Napster. MP3's are the real issue behind Napster. MP3's are a computer file format that greatly reduces the file size of a track on a CD. Due to the compact file of the music, they can be easily transmitted over the Internet. Once the files are stored on the computer's hard drive they can be played as many times as the user would like to listen to them. To add to the dissatisfaction of the music industry, peer-to-peer file sharing services, like Napster, have gained huge popularity in the last few years. The industry is trying to prove that Napster is hurting their sales, which causes damage to their business and is illegal on the basis of copyright infringement. If one were to look into this matter a little deeper they would see that this is not true. Napster and other peer-to-peer networks are legal and are protected under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

A peer-to-peer file sharing service has two main functions, one of which is that it provides Internet chat rooms and instant message services. It also allows users to scan the hard drives of other users to search for an MP3. Once the desired MP3 is located the user searching for the file is able to download the file directly to their personal

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computer's hard drive. When the user obtains the file, it then becomes searchable and downloadable by other users. As more users download the same file, the odds of another user locating that file greatly increases, as more people on the network are offering it for download. This makes the spread of an individual files move swiftly.

The most popular of these services on the Internet is Napster. As Napster has gained popularity, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has sued the service claiming that Napster provides a safe haven for users to trade copyrighted material. The music industry believes there is a significant decrease in sales due to the existence of services like Napster and this causes substantial damage to their business. The statistics show that this is very far from the truth. Napster can (and has been) quite beneficial to the music industry.

Individuals who use Napster would argue that the music they have downloaded from Napster is often purchased later on a full length CD. Users of the Napster service often browse the music that is available for download, then listen to the music, and proceed to their local CD store or online music store and purchase the CD. They have had the opportunity to preview portions of the CD through the Napster service and enjoyed it enough to make a purchase. The Digital Media Association (DiMA) which is "an alliance of companies that develop and deploy technologies to perform, promote and market music and video content on the World Wide Web and through other digital networks" (1). DiMA Conducted a study of how music downloaded or streamed from the Internet influenced the decision to purchase a CD. According to an article posted on DiMA's website entitled "Study Shows Webcasters Drive Music Sales" fifty-nine percent

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of people who have either downloaded or listened to streamed versions of music ended up purchasing the CD in a music store or other retail outlet (1). The individual would purchase the CD for two main reasons; the first it is very difficult to download entire albums from any peer-to-peer service. Therefore, in order to be able to obtain the album, it must be purchased as a CD or cassette. The second reason, a bit more significant yet simplistic, the sound produced from the common MP3 is quite inferior to the sound produced from a CD.

The MP3 file type, as mentioned before, is a compressed version of the music file used on CDs. If the most common compression rate of an MP3 is used, the quality of that data is lost and this causes sound deterioration. MP3's are able to compress the file contained on a CD by removing or clipping portions of the data that creates sounds, resulting in deterioration. On this compressed version of the sound file, there is quite literally missing portions of data that would be on the CD, and because of this missing data an MP3 cannot produce the same sound frequencies that can be created on a CD. Although MP3's may have superior sound to cassette tapes, as cassettes wear out easily. Cassettes are by no means of comparable quality of a CD purchased in a retail store. In addition, CD holds a digital replica of the original studio recording. In light of this added benefit, people are still likely to purchase the music they have downloaded from peer-to-peer services. Many individuals prefer the clarity of the music acquired by a CD. It would be unfair to ask them to settle for a lesser product.

Napster is protected under the precedent of previous court rulings regarding new technologies and copyright infringement. In the "Sony Corporation of America ET AL.

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Vs. Universal City Studios, Inc., ET AL." court case, Universal tried to prove that Sony's Betamax Machine and technologies violated copyright law. The Sony Betamax was a machine very similar in functionality to today's videocassette recorders. Universal claimed that the betamax was designed to make unauthorized copies of copyrighted material. The court determined that because the betamax was capable of being used for non-infringing purposes it could not be outlawed even if it was capable of being used for other purposes that would be considered copyright infringement. Napster does have permission from some artists to allow their work to be transmitted using the Napster online service. Therefore, Napster serves a legal non-copyright infringing purpose. Artists are able to use Napster as a means of expanding their audience base. The Sony case set the precedent that applies to peer-to-peer file sharing technologies. Because peer-to-peer services and technologies such as Napster can be used for non-infringing purposes they cannot be banned or outlawed. More recently, legislation has been passed which dictates the responsibilities of online service providers in handling copyright law and its users.

Napster has not denied some copyrighted material is transferred using their service. Napster argues that they cannot be held



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