In 1998, a computer science major at Northeastern University, sat in front of his computer and started to create a program that would help the common man, spark controversy, and change and revolutionize the music industry. His name is Shawn Fanning, and his creation is Napster. Napster would forever change the way people would listen, share and acquire music, and the music industry would never again be the same.
Napster, launched early in 1999, allows Internet users to share and download MP3 files directly from any computer connected to the Napster network. The software is used by downloading a client program from the Napster site and then connecting to the network through this software, which allows sharing of MP3 files between all users connected to the network. While Napster does not condone copyright infringement, there is no opportunity in the software to stop this from happening, or for a percentage to be paid to artists whose songs are being duplicated for free.
Unlike similar file-sharing applications (such as Gnutella, or Freenet), Napster limits users to uploading/downloading of MP3 files only. These files are compressed wave (.wav) files. The advantage of MP3 files is that they are approximately one-tenth the size of the corresponding .wav file and can be close-to-CD-quality. It is for this reason that many artists, record labels and other music industry stakeholders are concerned by the MP3 file format and applications like Napster that simplify the sharing of copyrighted material.
The reaction from recording artists has been varied, but primarily anti-Napster. Hip-hop artist Jay-Z had this to say:
“I believe that if someone spends time making an album, putting their heart and soul into it, that their music shouldn't be traded so freely.”
While mostly record industries and musicians have been in opposition to Napster, there are still artist that support the Napster cause, such artists...