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Friday, 4 August, 2000, 11:43 GMT 12:43 UK
MP3 verdict: should Napster be shut down?
Controversial music-sharing service Napster has been ordered to shut down by a US federal court judge pending a trial over whether the company is violating copyright law.
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) argued that Napster encouraged music piracy via the internet and claimed it had cost the music industry more than $300m in lost sales.
But Napster argues its users are not violating copyrights by trading songs for free because they share MP3 audio files for non-commercial use.
Do you think the decision to shut down Napstar is right? Is this the end of the road for music-sharing on the internet? What are the implications for the music industry and music fans? Should other music-sharing internet sites be shut down?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Napster should not be shut down because it brings people from all over the world together. The recording industry is already too rich.
Yet again we are seeing the power of major industry in the States. Napster has broken no laws, they do not actually copy the songs, they merely provide a method for swapping songs with other users, and this is the important part, for personal and NOT commercial use. When will a US court finally realise it's being run by US industry and not common sense.
Mark Savage, UK
Napster is used for personal use. Is there any evidence that anyone download the songs is selling them on for profit?
Download these songs for personal use is allowable under copyright law, the same as copy a CD to tape/md.
Frankly, I think the record companies are attempted to publicity for themselves and their bands by pursuing this.
The Napster controversy has quietly exposed the problem of middlemen the in music business. In this business, there are 3 parties - Innovator, Artist, and the Businessman. For a long time the artist and the innovator have been paid very minimum, because the businessman controlled the distribution channels. Napster serves the role of an equalizer. It provides the content, which the user is looking for.
Napster is useful source of older material and/or remixes that simply cannot be bought anyway.
Mark Burnley wisely states "professional musicians make music to earn a living". Substitute the word "living" for the word "fortune" and you're close to the mark. I don't begrudge the musicians their living, I do object to being expected to contribute to their millionaire lifestyle through the levels of profits only viable in total or virtual monopolies.
Napster must surely be of benefit to acts, both large and small, that aren't mainstream enough to get radio airplay for their songs. I've discovered a whole load of stuff, both old and new, that I've just got to get permanent copies of, if I can.
Long may this continue!
I think we should boycott Metallica.
This seems like yet another panic attack from the music industry. I believe they had the same fears when audiocassettes were produced and they don't appear to have suffered from that. I don't see them making a loss now or in the future because of this. In fact, it will probably increase sales. Maybe if they listened to the public and dropped prices, there wouldn't be so much of a problem.
Mark Burnley, England
We should all be rooting for Napster. The record companies have had been ripping us off for years and now they've lost control over who listens to what thanks to the Internet.
All these music artists make enough money anyway, and besides, they claim that their music is art, so they really don't want money do they? I say the music industry deserves this so called "piracy" because they have been ripping us of for years!!!
Napster should be shut down. Distributing music with the consent of artists is one thing, copying it on this scale is theft! If Napster paid copyright fees or was moderated in some way so that only songs without copyright protection were distributed it would be different. As it is, it is ripping off musicians, producers and a whole slew of people just trying to make a creative living.
This is a bad idea to ban the MP3 channel because it is a great way to share music in every continent. I feel that the internet is the fastest and most efficient way of doing this. Maybe the singers think that they will lose money if everyone goes to the net and listen to their music but this will be a way to curb pirated CD's.
Perhaps you can charge some money for every song that is downloaded.
The music business is making two mistakes; The users are mad and the artists trying to shut it down will lose popularity so either way they will be losing profits there's just no way to win
Gerry Lacroix, Canada
I think it is shameful that this situation even exists. People are so wrapped up in making money these days, they have forgotten that music is part of life and that if you can't share that, then what can you share? A downright embarrassment to the human race.
The technology that has allowed Napster to do it's stuff will not go away. The arrival of audio cassette tape did not destroy the music industry. On the contrary, it has gone from strength to strength. The way forward here is for the industry to look at ways in which the new technology can be used to increase the market for music. Shutting down Napster will not help achieve that, it will only make artists and record companies appear greedy, petulant and Luddite. Look to the future!
Considering Metallica originally started out performing "covers" of bands like Motorhead, Saxon and other British metal bands, I wonder how much they paid the performers in these bands in the way of "Royalties"?
Tim Moxon, England
There's simply no alternative. Why don't the music companies start selling there music online (at an acceptable price).
I think that thanks to Napster the CD prices will go down very soon.
Ian Miller, UK
Music is an art. Those bands that oppose Napster can be said to only be "in it for the money". There's a clear conflict. If you want to make music to be heard I think Napster and it's ilk should be welcomed.
CD sales are not the only revenue streams available.
It really shows how desperate for money some artists are. People around me tell me if I was an artist I wouldn't like it if everyone was giving my mp3 away rather than buying it. Which is true. BUT all the artists that are against Napster have been around for a long time, and have probably made millions. So £12 is not gonna be here or there to them. I don't know one person who downloads a whole album of Napster but instead they download 3 tracks of an album then go and buy the whole album from the High Street.
Christopher Quigley age 13, England
For far to long the music industry has made millions of pounds out of our pockets. Originally songs where performed to make people happy, but now its done just for money. So if you take the big money away then we would see how many bands make music just to keep people entertained for the pleasure of it.
I think the whole thing has been handled poorly. Sites like Napster are inevitably the way music distribution will move and the record industry should embrace rather than confront the medium. But at the same time, it doesn't add up to justify stealing music just because the record companies appear rich. Unfortunately, even rich people have rights.
Richard P, UK
The record industry is in such a mess at the moment - it is fraudulent and full of fat cats with very little imagination or creativity. The anti-MP3 campaign recently run by the likes of Roxette and Robbie Williams shows that the industry can only run with artists and not just corporate busy-bodies. A good call to close the web site!
The record industry has more money that it will ever need thanks to its policy of over-pricing CD's. In this sense the record labels called in the thunder and Napster is the whirlwind - a whirlwind, which, thanks to the net, will not abate.
Mike Holmes, Scotland
Music companies have done a superb job of acting like headless chickens. How naive to assume the old-fashioned rip-off methods used in the past will last forever. Developers and users of technology are streets ahead of these sluggish companies. They need to look at new ways of using the technology to their advantage rather than suing everyone they can - yet another fast buck method. What do you expect when we have to pay £15-16 for a CD!
The music industry should use this media to sell their records because if they chop the head off the MP3 industry another will only grow in its place. I can see this being a never-ending battle, because the internet is and all should be a free domain! Come on RIAA wise up!
Have you listened to most of the music to be found on Napster?? - The quality sucks and the end of tracks is often missing...
However, it's a great way of advertising the music. I've bought numerous CDs based on tracks I've found on Napster. Keep it running.
I don't expect music to be free. I expect it to be sensibly priced, which currently it clearly isn't. If it were fairly priced Napster would be a godsend to the music industry, allowing people to sample free before buying. Instead people sample free and then don't buy because it's overpriced.
Trying to shut down Napster will do very little to stop people exchanging music files over the internet. Napster is just the biggest and best known of many other sites/programs that enable people to share.
Karl H, London, England
RIAA won a battle. But we all know very well who is going to win the war.
If I borrow a CD from my local library and tape it, should the library be shut down?
Russ Walton, UK
Most people don't seem to understand that downloading music for free is a privilege, not a right. If I write a song, I own the copyright and can choose to give it away or retain control. Retaining control is the only way to make a living out of music and Napster makes a mockery out of this. How dare people complain when their gateway to easy theft is taken from them.
The music industry thought home taping would kill its market. It didn't, did it? In the same way, Napster won't kill off the music industry either.
The closing of Napster is disgraceful. If record companies did not rip off people in the first place there would be less demand for the likes of Napster. There are worse things happening in the world, the powers that be should concentrate on those.
Instead of shutting it down they should have come up with better solution. Maybe using advertiser banners to pay for the music and allowing free downloads. Freeloader.com uses this method for games and it seems to work very well.
I don't understand the record companies. Ten years ago people already knew that in the near future things like Napster were possible. The companies never bothered to do anything, they were too busy trying to squish all the money (and creativity) out of artists like Prince and George Michael. If they just went with the flow, like e.g. DavidBowie.com - they would have been rich. But they insisted on being stupid and old-fashioned - a real pity.
In the long run the music industry is going to have to embrace this type of technology anyway. What stops another Napster type company setting up offshore? The people who don't want to pay for music will just e-mail the MP3s to each other.
The interesting thing here is that the Internet has brought together communities of people who clearly like working together and sharing files. That can't be stopped.
How many of those who think music should be free are willing to do their own jobs for nothing?
What are Metallica are trying to do? In stopping people downloading music from Napster, they are alienating their fans. People are going to buy less of their music. I am a Metallica fan, and I think that it's disgraceful!
P Littlewood, UK
Well, I don't own an MP3 player, and probably won't even think of buying one before ADSLs become more the norm here in the UK, but as it's a possibility that I will own one sometime in the future this does spark my interest somewhat. I'm sure I read somewhere recently that EMI and Sony intend to make MP3 their Next Big Thing for the music-buying public. But does that equate with having a wider choice of music, or are we just talking about a wider choice of format? I can't imagine them including musicians other than those already signed to their labels (not that they don't have some of the best).
Live and let live - that's what I say. Music CD sales increased dramatically since MP3 came into popular use. I hear a song I like, I buy the album. Simple as that.
Emma Kent, UK
Napster is one of the best things I have been using to find new music. It's a great way to discover new bands and listen to music before you decide to buy a CD. I don't understand why so many musicians want to shut it down. Aren't they making enough money already? Besides, they seem to be failing to understand that Napster is the ultimate way to promote your music! Looking at the prices of CD's in Holland, I don't think anyone is surprised that this so-called illegal copying of songs is so popular.
Listen to all the goody little two shoes 'its piracy'.
Do we care? NO if
they shut down napster we'll just move elsewhere.
Go on RIAA, stop us if you can. We've already won, they can't stop us.
Hail the digital revolution!
Its about time the music industry should shape up to the digital music revolution that is currently taking place. It is sites such as napster and mp3.com that are pushing music forward and making it more available to music lovers. Admittedly there are people who have copyrighted MP3s and if MP3's sorted out some sufficient encryption methods then this would not happen as much. It is more often the case that people will buy CDs of tunes they have heard in MP3 format. Music companies already take a huge percentage of musicians work. Come the revolution I'd like to see more money going to the artists than into these greedy music companies. Maybe its about time CDs came down in price...
I have been using Napster for around two years now. I still go out and buy the music I like. Napster allows me to vet the music before I buy - I say let the community grow, do Label's stop people recording songs from the radio? If anything Napster helps them survive.
Would Napster be as popular if music couldn't be down loaded for free - I doubt it! I agree with most of the comments especially about the music industry ripping us off, but are we any better by downloading music for free!
I believe the RIAA is ripping people off with the high cost of CD's and are trying to maintain a hold over the control and sale of music to the public. I feel that the music industry is a monopoly and the Federal Government should set restrictions on them. I find nothing wrong with sharing music online.
Dean Smith, UK
The RIAA are blinked fools. They could easily have dealt with Napster as a legal entity and created a subscription based service. The RIAA have committed suicide. This is such sweet irony. I hope this leads to the death of the bloated multi-tiered recording industry machine we so gullibly accept.
I appreciate that it is impractical to try and ban something like Napster as MP3 files are downloadable from many internet sites. The problem is that the record industry suddenly finds itself in a position where it can no longer rely upon profit margins generated by big stars. Although I think CDs are overpriced, I do not disagree in principle to paying for a copy of music as a lot of people rely on the music industry for their livelihood and work very hard to provide the public with a good service. Yes, some of them make a lot of money but so do professional footballers and company directors. The pay per download idea sounds reasonable to me.
Napster is a positive application. It's not about stealing anything, it's about sharing music and making it easy to try new music. What is the difference between someone using Napster to get music and someone getting a tape of a CD from a friend?
The Pixies have done quite well out of Napster, I've bought all of their albums after hearing some songs I got from Napster.
It seems to me that the RIAA are worried that if Napster and similar services take off in a big way, then the record industry will lose revenue. But aren't these sites part of the record industry? Perhaps the RIAA and record companies should embrace a new technology rather than be left behind. I don't think they can stop these services, they will only push them underground. I suspect many users do pirate music via Napster, but the record companies make vast profits already. In my opinion Napster should be kept online.
The music monopoly is fighting a losing battle. The real problem is not piracy, but the wildly inflated price of CDs. Doesn't it seem strange that all companies sell at virtually the same price? Does anyone ever question why you can 'burn' a CD at home for less than 10% of what it costs to purchase one? People all over the world are sharing music, copying CDs, and exchanging files over the internet. This would not be happening if recording companies weren't artificially pumping up CD prices. It's not about copyright or artistic ownership. The issue is money! So please don't get confused over who the "good guys" are here.
I often use Napster to find stuff which is not even available in the shops because it's old, deleted, not released here, or just not important enough to get distribution to the megastores - how's that harming their sales?
The internet can only benefit the music industry allowing a greater number artists to release their music. Music that wouldn't fit the strict money-making-formula the record companies follow. The commercialism of music has hindered creativity for too long. Anything that takes the power away from record bosses is a good thing.
Julian Higgins, United Kingdom
The music industry needs to shape up and take on board the technology changes that have happened in the last 10 years. They have sat back and watched the cash roll in without realising the resentment that the UK public feels at being ripped off over prices of CD's etc. The fact that a person in his garage can produce perfect copies in 1's and 2's cheaper than the market cost of a CD demonstrates the massive margins the Industry makes.
Moataz M. Abou-Eita, Cairo, Egypt
The concept is ahead of its time and the result is nothing short of wholesale piracy. However, there is great scope for buying music online and so with the right changes to its business model there may yet be a great future for Napster.
My use of Napster has allowed me to replace my old vinyl, which is perfectly legal. I've also been able to get music that is no longer available from those who sit on their greedy, fat copyrighted bottoms. Looks like Gnutella time to me.
Re Vishal Vashisht's comments:
"...by law, everyone can make one copy of their music..." Fair enough. However, I don't think that the law allows lots of other people to download and reproduce that "one copy". This seems to be what Napster is all about.
I wonder how many anti-Napster writers can say that they have never taped someone else's CD ? I'm told that in the sleeve notes of an album by Mettalica (one of the bands suing Napster) the group admit to doing just this themselves.
The reason that the music industry is failing isn't about mp3s over the Internet. Napster is just another gateway for devoted music fans to know more about music all over the world! If there isn't Napster, record sales would still be dropping.
Anthony Clark, UK
The irony for me is that since I started using Napster I've bought at least 5 albums I would not have bought had I not been able to download and preview the tracks. It simply takes the risk out of record buying, acting as a radio station where everyone can hear the music they want to hear.
The big corporate labels and artists have completely missed the point. They are clearly petrified of a future in which they can't rip us off by charging £16 for CDs that cost a few pence to make.
Napster makes commercial sense to the music industry so the only reason for a ban must be one of manipulation. At the moment they have the market stitched up. They choose which artists get promoted via the relative limited number of radio stations and other music broadcasters. Napster does away with that - people become their own radio station and say what music they like whilst other people worldwide listen and judge for themselves.
The Napster opposition does not revolve around lost revenue - the music industry are afraid of losing their control
Napster is exactly what the Web should be about. A genuine world community which shares for mutual benefit. Big business is simply trying to exert its power to protect profits, but this is surely a case of trying to close the stable door after the horse has bolted.
Lee Mason, UK
You could download MP3 files using Internet Explorer long before Napster came along. Ban Internet Explorer?
Buying an album at the moment can be a bit of a gamble. As the powerful chain stores force the small independents out of business, it is becoming more and more difficult to listen to an album before you buy it. The single on the radio may great, get the album home and the rest is rubbish!
With Napster you get the opportunity to be able to listen to tracks in the comfort of your own home and then choose whether or not to buy the album. What record companies fear is not piracy, but the fact that sales will go down because they'll realise that the majority of mass produced pop albums released today are manufactured production line rubbish.
In the end, the record companies are doing themselves a disservice by fighting emerging technologies rather than embracing them and shepherding their entrance into the marketplace. The music industry's greed and the exorbitant cost of CDs has kept more people from purchasing music than Napster ever has or will.
Napster is just the tip of the iceberg. It should stay up and the world should take notice. This approach to sharing information shatters traditional concepts of information power and offers some hope against the e-elitism that is driving a wider margin between info-rich and info-poor.
Napster has only been shut down for the time being. I think this is the perfect opportunity for the world's music industry to strike a deal with it. After all, who in the world hasn't heard of Napster? It's been perfect advertising and marketing. If music can be downloaded at a "considerably" cheaper price than CD purchases - everyone wins.
Music isn't like software where you buy the licence. With music you actually buy that copy, CD or tape. No company is going to search out people who copy music in their own home but they get very worried by sites such as Napster and iMesh.
The record industry is filthy stinking rich.......... and it stinks!
Leave it open!! I have CDs galore, all paid for, but I too cannot be bothered to transfer them to MP3. Napster provides a service to its users and like any other service, it will be abused by a small minority. There are a lot worse things available on the net and maybe the courts and governments should be tackling these before making the rich richer!
Shutting Napster down would be a healthy thing to do when you shut down arms-factories as well. It's not the item itself but the use of it that is illegal or not. So my conclusion: ridiculous decision.
I am all for Napster and think that they are doing things a lot more legally than other sites of the same nature. They are the alternative and considering the history and nature of Metallica they should just give Napster a break!
Keep Napster alive!
I run a fan site for a band and thanks to Napster I've found some rare and unreleased songs by them that I would have otherwise never heard.
Napster has helped me find new music and keep me interested in the band, thus I will go out and buy their CDs when they release any new ones.
Matt H, UK
Without a doubt it shouldn't be shut down. If the RIAA had any sense, they could have done a deal with Napster to get revenue from each download. Shutting down Napster was the worst possible idea. It's a bit like damming up a river. A new channel will open somewhere else. If too many new channels open up, the RIAA is going to have real problems from stopping the floor - that's the beauty of the Internet.
I don't think that it should be shut down. Pop stars earn more than enough money (along with all other types of entertainer). I mean is Madonna honestly short of cash? I think that the record industry needs to open its mind because it is being left behind by technology.
Here we go, money talks in the States. What the music companies don't want you to know is that, by law everyone can make one copy of their music. I haven't got time to convert my 500+ CD's to MP3 so Napster provides a great service. Napster is being punished for staying within the law, providing a user database etc.
27 Jul 00 | Forum
MP3 wars: Quiz the anti-piracy police
28 Jul 00 | Entertainment
Napster appeals against closure
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