Napster: Sharing or Stealing?

             Is downloading music via the Internet sharing or stealing? To millions of Napster's users, it's just sharing and perfectly legal. Napster is a fast growing service that allows online users to search each others' files and exchange music stored in the MP3 format, the format used to copy songs from CDs onto computer hard drives. Napster argues that it merely provides a "conduit” to this music, and has done nothing illegal. According to Lee Gomes of The Wall Street Journal, Napster lets users obtain MP3 files of popular music, something the record industry calls "copyright infringement”. Napster describes it as fans "sharing” their favorite songs over the Internet (5).

             A year ago, Shawn Fanning was sitting in his dorm room at Boston's Northeastern University. He was challenged by his roommate to figure out an easier way to download music from the Internet. Who knew a freshman's creation would become so controversial that 200 universities would ban it from their computer systems, and 18 record labels, plus rock band Metallica and rapper Dr. Dre would file lawsuits to abolish the Napster and their program. ( Napster is among the most popular of many programs that permit file sharing and has therefore become a target for copyright holders. Their goal is to put Napster out of business because they feel, "Napster exists only to pirate music.” Elton John, Sean "Puffy” Combs and Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes have spoken out against Napster. Rapper Chuck D and rock band Limp Bizkit have lent their voices to the company in support. ( .

             For rapper Chuck D, the Internet poses an opportunity for musicians to market their talent and make money without the interference of big music companies. He is arguing for direct-to-consumer marketing, because it lacks the hassle of record company contracts and the various fees that go into marketing an artist's music.

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