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Controlling The Internet

.. ic fans. Napster’s software application enables users to locate and share music files through one easy-to-use interface. It creates a centralized system that allows people to log on and use the Napster search engine to connect with individual computer hard drives anywhere in the world and share music(much of which is stolen according to Napsters critics). A very simple search mechanism is used where you plug in the name of any artist of any song, and all of a sudden you’ll get multiple choices where you can click on and download that song easily for free. It also provides media fans a vehicle to identify new artists and a forum to communicate their interests and tastes with one another via instant messaging, chat rooms, and Hot List user bookmarks.

Napster will, in the future, use their technology for other file sharing purposes. Napster’s membership is already expanding faster than such high growth Internet application companies as Hotmail or ICQ. This astonishing growth has taken place without advertising or promotion. Shawn Fanning, an eighteen year-old freshman at Northeastern University, founded napster, in 1999. Over four million individual users access the Napster service each day, as defined by unique IP addresses. It is this kind of interest in file-sharing that has inspired such industry experts as Andy Grove, the founder of Intel, to state: The whole Internet could be re-architected by Napster-like technology.

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The remarkably rapid growth of Napster and MP3 technology scared the Recording Industry Association of America and some of its artists greatly, and resulted in numerous lawsuits filed against Napster and other similar sites. Napster was charged in court by the RIIA under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which stipulates the way that a service provider who receives notification of alleged infringement from a copyright holder must take action. The Recording industry was of the belief that Napster facilitated the illegal downloading of music, without any royalties going to the artists or record companies. In fact, recent studies have shown that 78 percent of online music users dont regard the practice as theft, and another 61 percent say they dont care if the music they are capturing is copyrighted. However, it is important to point out that Napster does not itself make available any MP3 materials over the Internet. Napster merely provides computer software that allows its users to choose which files to make available to each other, and which files to download.

Despite the fact that the RIAA publicly asserts that Napster hurts the music industry by giving away music for free, the RIAAs own figures for the first half of 2000, show that CD sales were up six percent from the same period the year before, an have in fact reached an all-time high (about $5.9 billion). Napster believes that CD sales are rising in America because Napster helps cultivate, broaden and deepen our users’ affection for music. We believe that file-sharing among music fans helps to create a larger community of passionate music lovers, which allows the industry to sell even more music to fans. The RIAA sees things a little bit differently. Hilary Rosen and the RIAA have filed multimillion- dollar lawsuits against and Napster inc., accusing both companies of violating copyright laws by encouraging their Web site users to steal music with new digital technologies.

Rosen wonders whether or not: Companies such as Napster can try to commercialize and essentially steal music from creators? The debate dragged on for many months but at a recent press conference in New York City significant progress was made. The German media giant Bertelsmanns, which through strategic alliances with AOL and TerraLycos, has direct access to over 200 million online users world-wide, announced it was breaking with music-industry cohorts and forming a strategic alliance with the outlaw Internet service. Bertelsmanns will loan $50 million to Napster to help it build a system to charge Napsters users, and give artists, songwriters, publishers and music labels a cut. Details of how much consumers will pay for Napster have not been worked out, but the expectation is that users will be charged between five and fifteen dollars per month for unlimited usage. When Napster starts charging its users, Bertelsmanns music unit, BMG, will withdraw from the industrys lawsuit against Napster. If the company can charge a modest fee for the unlimited right to use the service, Napster can thrive and the record industry can turn pirates back into paying customers.

The recording industry appears to be realizing that there are millions of Napster supporters willing to pay monthly fees for the Napster service, potentially generating tons of revenue. The Bertelsmanns deal appears to signal that record labels see that the Napster movement is too large — and way too valuable — to kill. In fact, an October Webnoize survey found that 67.6% of Napster users surveyed would pay $15 per month to use Napster, a 9.1% increase compared to a similar survey conducted last April. Currently, 69% of college students surveyed are at least monthly users of Napster; 43.3% use Napster at least weekly. The agreement signals a major shift in the Napster wars. The $40 billion music industry has traditionally treated online file sharing, as a time bomb that threatens to destroy CD sales.

Now at least one mogul is embracing the concept and its popularity among young music lovers. Bertelsmanns claims that that digital distribution will in fact increase music sales and that they will urge other music labels to also drop their suits and strike deals with Napster, which would allow Napster to legally offer the music of the other labels artists for downloading. This is needed to ensure Napsters survival since Napster needs to be able to provide more than just the songs of BMGs artists in order to keep its customers satisfied. Even Hilary Rosen, president of the Recording Industry Association of America and the labels chief warrior in the Napster fight, felt positively about the deal, saying: This is a good thing.. I strongly believe that the future of these issues is best served when people are working together and licenses are sought and agreements are made. MUSIC CENSORSHIP Napster, and programs like Napster, have put the entire industry in a boom.

Gone are the days of kids staying up all night to download one song. Today, it is all about high speed access and quick downloads. Cable companies are battling it out with the phone companies over who has the faster service. On top of that, they now fight over the issue of how many people are sharing your particular line. It has come down to the fact that if you cant download five songs in a matter of minutes, then the server is too slow.

In all of this, the music industry has chosen to complain and try to bring down the technology rather than trying to become a part of it. Courtney Love is one artist that has realized the potential of this technology and wishes to be apart of it: There were a billion downloads last year, but music sales are up Downloads are creating more demand We dont have to work with major labels anymore because the economy is creating new ways to distribute and market music Next time I release a record, Ill be able to go directly to my fans and let them hear it before anyone else. The grip that record companies has on artists is slipping. Record deals used to be the only option, but artists are realizing that there is more out there for them; options that leave the music in their own hands, rather than the hands of large companies. A local band, Silence, has chosen to hold off on record deals to maintain control over where their music is to go. They have the knowledge and the technology to distribute their own work, which will mean a larger profit in the long run.

Silence says they are tempted by record deals, but only because large companies have greater promotional capabilities. Conclusion It is beyond doubt that the Internet can be used as a tool to break the law in various ways (utter death threats, conduct credit card fraud, break publication bans, music rights and of course pornography etc.) In the internet age censorship is being taken to new levels. The issue of internet privacy should not be taken for granted. What is remarkable is that, in a community estimated to be as large as 25,000,000 users, there have been so few incidents of this type. Let us not use them as an excuse to over-regulate a technology offreedom. Let us instead work towards wise enforcement of already existing laws, and more uniform international laws.


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