The Napster Part 1


Napster vs. RIAA

In the summer of 1999 a website Napster.com was launched in the US and the global music industry was challenged forever.

Napster was a system which enabled musicians and music fan to locate music available in the MP3 and WMA music formats. The website made it possible for its users to freely share their music files the internet with other users in all over world. Napster maintained a database of music files held on the computer hard-drives of the registered Napster Users. A user, looking for a particular song sends his request to Napster. The software then checked the availability of that song with this database, and if available, sends it to the user who requested the song. The service became extremely popular within a short span of time. The website attracted 1.6 million simultaneous users during the height of its popularity in Feb 2000.

Napster's offering of this peer to peer technology was strongly condemned by the Recording Industry Association of America (IRAA), a trade group representing the world's biggest record labels, Universal Music, Sony Music, Warner Music, EMI Group and Bertelsmann AG. RIAA alleged the Napster was engaging in or assisting others in copying copyrighted music and without payment or the express permission of the right owners. RIAA also claimed that Napster would significantly harm the sales of the recording industry. In December 1999, the body sued Napster in the Federal District Court of copyright infringements and petitions the court to shut down the website.

The legal battle was covered extensively in the global media. In the beginning of July 2001, Napster had to stop offering its service due to certain technical problems. While the company was working towards setting the problem right and resuming operations, In mid July 2001, a District Court Judge order barred Napster from offering the file sharing
Service. Even as Napster users strongly protested against the order, the company appealed the ruling before the US Court of Appeals in San Francisco. The Appeals Court granted Napster temporary reprieve against injunction until a further review of the injunction request.

What followed was a highly publicized struggle between the recording industry and Napster and other websites offering such services. The controversy raised several question regarding the impact of the emergence of newer technologies like Napster n the traditional modes of conducting business. Was the recording industry using its financial power to suppress technological innovations in the music business? Or was Napster wrong in allowing people across the globe to access music without paying for it and without artist permission? The case eventually came to be seen as a struggle by the powerful entertainment industry against threatening it.