Return to Home
  Freedom Line

The symbol of the freedom of Internet has ended in a federal appeals that will have dramatic effect on intellectual property rights sharing of music




The Battle Over Napster

What supporters hail as a symbol of "Generation Next" ingenuity and the "freedom of the Internet" has ended in a landmark federal appeals court ruling that will have a dramatic effect on intellectual property rights and the sharing of music on the Internet.

For 18 months, Napster has been one of the hottest sites on the Internet. Claiming more than 50 million users, Napster allows anyone with a modem and a CD burner to download all the free music they want from other "Napsters" sharing music on the site from their home collections. This type of music-sharing permits users to avoid the costs of buying new CDs from a record store, and musicians who support the site say it enables them to avoid the bureaucracy of the major record labels in getting their music out to the public.

However, it would appear the party's over. Record companies sued Napster, claiming that its music-sharing service facilitates wholesale copyright infringement. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently agreed, saying a preliminary injunction is "not only warranted, but required."

What began as a battle now has both sides talking compromise. BMG Music recently invested in Napster, and plans are underway to develop some sort of legitimate, subscription fee-based site with the support of major record label companies.

While there are already variations of free music copying schemes popping up on the Internet, intellectual property rights advocates are breathing a sigh of relief. The challenge now will be for the record companies to find additional ways to distribute their music online to reduce incentive to illegally pirate their material.

The U.S. Congress wants to make sure they move fast in doing so. Senator Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) recently warned that some in Congress may consider stripping the music industry of some of its Internet copyright privileges, if they don't soon come up with a way to make it easier for consumers to download songs over the Internet.

According to Congress, one option might be the creation of a special, compulsory license, allowing Web sites to sell music online without the permission of the record companies. The Web site would have to make a royalty payment to the music label for each song or album sold. Why Internet music should become a Congressionally mandated new entitlement is anyone's guess, but stay tuned. The battle rolls on...


The Return of Napster

For those of you logging on to Napster over the past several weeks you may have heard something startling: Silence... [more]

Return to Freedom Line Archive