The debate over whether or not Napster Inc. is in violation of existing copyright infringement laws is a complex issue. Napster’s defense attorneys claim that because music is shared between users, and Napster is never actually in possession of these files (the company is merely providing the service by which these files can be shared), Napster is in fact, not guilty of compromising copyright infringement laws. According to these same lawyers, the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992, which rules that it is entirely legal for a consumer to record and to share copyrighted music providing it not be done for monetary gain, protects Napster Inc. On the opposing side, The Recording Industry Association of America asserts that Napster is indirectly acting as a distributor of copyrighted music, thereby violating the Home Recording Act of 1992.
Napster Inc. was founded in 1999 by nineteen year-old Shawn Fanning. Fanning dropped out of Northeastern University in order to devote the entirety of his time to developing Napster’s revolutionary software. The company, who was financed by venture capital firm Hummer Winblad, totaled $0.0 in sales for 1999. Napster Inc, however, is currently exploring ways to utilize their over 35 million users in order to turn a profit. Napster can be accessed from any computer with Internet capabilities, allowing the user to download virtually any song. This technology does not only threaten the recording industry, but also any other industry that involves the sale of intellectual property. One might speculate that the publishing and the movie making industries are next in line to fall victim to file sharing.
It would be in the best interest of both Napster and the RIAA to reach some agreement. A federal court ruling allowing Napster to remain in business will only hurt the consumer. Record companies will be forced to protect themselves, which could, for example, lead to the introduction of copyright protected compact disks. This would make it impossible for new music to be copied and distributed over the Internet. In addition, the increase in production cost would, in turn, cause CD prices to rise, thereby hurting the consumer.
While the technology pioneered by Napster is potentially harmful to the United States economy, this does not mean that it should be prevented from being used. If the RIAA and Napster come to an agreement, then file-sharing technology could prove to be profitable for all. Just as television and radio are profitable because of tremendous amounts of money generated through advertising, the free distribution of music over the Internet could do the same for record companies. The Internet has already proven to be extremely profitable for companies such as alladvantage. com, whose profits come solely from advertising. Through great amounts of money made through advertising, services such as Napster could pay artists and record companies for the rights to their music.
In conclusion, Napster’s technology should be carefully embraced. In other words, rather than destroy the record industry, Napster should include it. The RIAA would be smart in striking a deal with Napster. Technology is moving at such a rapid speed, that the industry can only stay profitable if they choose to move into new markets. With the overwhelming popularity of Mp3’s, it seems as though Internet distribution is the future of the music. The record industry can choose to evolve, and profit from advancements made in technology, or they can fight technology and stand to loose.