Napster and Intellectual property Essay

             Probably there is no man in the United States who has never used or at least heard of free downloading sites and Napster used to be the most popular among them not only providing music at no charge but also promoting new and unknown musicians. However, today under our scrutiny is the case of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in A & M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc. 239 F.3d (9th Cir. 2001).       The Defendant, Napster is known as the music-swapping site that enabled users to transmit and store music in the MP3 format (this format was first set in 1987 by the Moving Picture Experts Group and its full name is MPEG-3, which corresponds to the abbreviated “MP3.”) (1. 2005). What is more, apart from storing music on your PC, you could search needed music files on the hard drives of other computers and change copies with them in the above-mentioned MP3 format. And last but not the least, the Napster facilitated search of MP3 files and provided such additional options as a “chat room” for music fans, etc., and a directory for artists to comment on their music.
Hence, plaintiffs in the person of RIAA claim that Napster promotes distribution of copyrighted works, thus, coming under deficition that “one who, with knowledge of the infringing activity, induces, causes or materially contributes to the infringing conduct of another, may be held liable as a ‘contributory’ infringer” (2, 2005). In other words, Napster is accused of infringing copyright law and exclusive rights on intellectual properrty.

            Intellectual property or IP is a legal entitlement, which enables its holder to exercise exclusive rights of use in relation to the product of his mind (intellect), and the same as property rights, the IP rights are also protected under the law. As to the copyright, it is a kind of the IP rights that refers tcreative and artistic works (for instance, books, movies, music, etc.) providing a copyright holder the exclusive right to control reproduction or adaptation of such works for a certain period of time (3, 2005).

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            The court’s verdict was in favor of the Plaintiffs stating that Napster indeed violated RIAA’s copyright and it was determined that “as much as eighty-seven percent of the files available on Napster may be copyrighted and more than seventy percent may be owned or administered by plaintiffs” (4, 2005).

            However, personally I support the Napster and find quite reasonable his explanation that its users were engaged in the fair use of information from the site, without infringing the copyright. In fact, three particular fair uses can be specified, namely: sampling (before purchasing some music users can obtain a demo copy); space shifting (converting music files from one format into another); distributing music records by new and already popular musicians – and none of them is a copy right infringement.

            Furthermore, to my mind, the main purpose of this case is not to protect artists’ exclusive rights but to slow down the development of new technololgy MP3. RIAA legs behind the Napster and can not offer up-to-date music services in the Internet; therefore, the easiest way to stop the rival is to call him in the court.

            Sure, from the economic point of view, Napster causes some losses to the recordig industry as its users get music for free, wheras ordinarily they would have to pay for it. However, Napster makes no profit itself and copies are not offered for sale. Moreover, Napster promotes new and unknown authors along with the new groundbreaking technology MP3 that came in place of CD.

            Yet, when laws are concerned, it has been widely known that law under which intellectual property rights are protected is quite a controvercial issue and it is a subject of much controversy concerning how this law should be applied in our digital era. In fact, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in A & M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc. 239 F.3d (9th Cir. 2001) is a precedent-setting case, therefore all points and aspewcts should be taken into account.

            Thus, I hold the opinion that the court’s decision against the Napster was a step backward with regard to capitalism and progress (retardation of launching new techbology) though in some way step forward relating to the democracy as the new previous case has been introduced.

            To sum up, in order to meet all requirenments of the today’s society but to remain within the scope of law I see a dire need in such file-sharing system as the Napster, though its use may be a little bit more restricted, for instance there may be only indexes for searches or demo-copiers with a shorrter trial period and permission should be officially obtained from musicians to use their copyrighted works for promotion purposes only. Yet, such benefits of the Napster as chat room and artists directory should remain unimpaired.

Bibliography

  1. Appeals court to hear Napster case Monday. Retrieved on December 5, 2005 from:

http://archives.cnn.com/LAW/

  1. A&M RECORDS V NAPSTER. Retrieved on December 5, 2005 from:

http://www.ce9.uscourts.gov/

3.Intellectual Property. Retrieved on December 5, 2005 from:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intellectual_property

  1. A & M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc. Retrieved on December 5, 2005 from:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_&_M_Records,_Inc._v._Napster,_Inc.

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