Napster, P2P software, and the Sharing of Music in the Digital Age.

Essay by J232University, Bachelor'sA+, December 2009

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Napster, P2P software, and the sharing of music in the digital age.

These days, millions of people worldwide are sharing music over the internet on “P2P” software, which stands for peer-to-peer. P2P is software that when downloaded onto someone's computer, enables that person to access another person's hard drive and to find and copy certain files that the software is designed to recognize. In essence, it allows people to create digital links between two computers and transfer data, or in this case, music. Record companies as well as artists are not happy about this, as CD sales have plummeted, and copyrighted material is being exchanged without the companies or their artists seeing any profit.

It is legal for anyone to make a recording or use a recording of a song for personal noncommercial use without being in violation of copyright laws. This is made possible because of the Compulsory Mechanical License.

This states that after the copyright owner makes the first recording of the song and distributes it to the public, anyone is allowed to make recordings of the song for personal use only. It is illegal to sell these recordings without owning the copyright however. Technically, they need to pay the owner for each “unit manufactured” (each recording made) but the amount they need to pay is very low, usually only around nine cents. This license is the reason why many believe (or believed, before they got caught) that it’s ok to download mp3 files (music files) for personal use and not be legally persecuted. This is what Napster lawyers thought. Napster used this argument in response to the lawsuit filed against them by The Record Industry Association of America. Unfortunately for Napster, the judge’s ruling was in favor of the RIAA, and eventually Napster was shut down. Napster...