Downloading songs from the Internet: is it robbery or free expression? A specific look at Napster Inc

Essay by ophof33University, Master's April 2005

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The Napster software, established in May of 1999, permits Internet users to share and download MP3 files directly from any computer connected to the Napster network. The software downloads a client program from the Napster site and then connects to the network through the software. This allows sharing, uploading and downloading, of MP3 files between all users connected to the network. Napster also lets users to speak to one another by ways of instant messages, chat rooms, and Hot List user bookmarks. Napster does not condone copyright infringement, but leaves no opportunity in the software to stop this from happening. Napster also does not provide artists with royalties for their music. People can now download music for free in their own homes and artists can release their music themselves. This could mean the end of record labels and other associated companies, causing artists and record companies to worry. Napster challenges the music industry's monopoly on distribution.

Napster limits users to uploading and downloading of MP3 files only. MP3 files approximate one-tenth the size of the corresponding wave files and can be close to CD-quality. This reason causes many artists, record labels, and other music industry stakeholders to be concerned by MP3 file formats like Napster that simplify the sharing of copyrighted material. Other file formats commonly used on the Internet do not seem to be a threat to the recording industry primarily due to the reduced quality of the recording. Real audio files have reduced sound quality, as compared to a radio, and usually stream over different protocols. This allows people to listen to songs without having to download the source files.

The reaction from artists, record labels, and other music industries varies, although reactions have been primarily anti-Napster. The first action to be taken against Napster was sued by...