Music over the Internet has become a popular form of entertainment. Daily, people download and listen to music online. The rapid growth of such sites as Napster and MP3.COM is evidence of the popularity of online music. While music lovers enjoy this free access, the music industry is taking its stand in court. Industry representatives argue that these sites, Napster in particular, reduce their profits and violate copyright laws. These music services should be allowed to continue providing music for their users.
One of Napster’s selling points is its capacity to locate rare music files and unmarketed live music. As I type this paper, I am listening to The Foo Fighters perform “Baby, Hold On.” The Eddie Money Band originally recorded this song in the late 1970’s. On a recent visit to the Conan O’Brian Show, The Foo Fighters sang their rendition of this classic tune. As the band has never recorded “Baby, Hold On” in a studio, this television performance resulted in the only available recording of the song. Napster enabled me to find the sole Foo Fighter version of “Baby Hold On.” Without Napster, I would have never been able to find it. This is the case with many of the songs I download from the controversial music site. I suspect this is true for many Napster users.
Big Music’s main contention with Napster is that users download songs that they should purchase on compact discs. The industry alleges violations of copyright laws. What is the difference between downloading a song off the Internet and recording a favorite tune off the radio? If the music industry is going to pursue legal attacks against Napster, should they not also include radio in their legal battle? If Napster charged consumers to download songs, its services should be banned. However, Napster is free and no profits are gained. The law states that all noncommercial music reproduction is legal – Napster is legal.
Napster can also argue that copying cassette tapes is legal and is fundamentally the same process as sharing music over the Internet. For over two decades, people have legally dubbed cassette tapes. The tape-dubbing craze has developed to the point that virtually everyone has a dual cassette deck capable of high-speed dubbing. This was formerly the best way to obtain free music. However, recent technology has led to new options, including the CD burner, the portable MP3 recorder, and the revolutionary minidisk. The difference between tape decks and Napster lies in Napster’s advanced technology and organization. Think of Napster as an indexed version of 30,000 of your closet friends’ music collections.
Napster provides young and upcoming artists with opportunities to distribute their music virtually free to a worldwide audience. Napster is providing listeners with a preview, a free commercial if you will, for these new artists. This is one of Napster’s major services. Napster dedicates a segment of the site to rising stars of the music industry. I have been introduced to several new groups and have purchased several of their CDs. Napster encourages listeners to purchase CDs and promotes the record industry. Napster backers believe that the music industry makes enough money off concerts, related merchandise, and music sales. Many fans feel as I do, that the industry is greedy and wishes to make unreasonable profits. As a result, many fans are registering their disenchantment with artists. Metallica, one of America’s most popular rock bands, has filed suit against Napster. Fans have reacted negatively to the band. Lars Ulrich, the band’s founder, was booed at the recent MTV Video Awards. However, Napster founder Shawn Fanning received a standing ovation the same night. Fans are tired of greed, have demonstrated their discontent, and only wish to hear good music.
All things considered, Napster is a legitimate operation that seeks not to destroy the music industry, but to aid music lovers as they attempt to locate favorite songs and explore a variety of music. In the words of John Lennon, “Let it be.”