by Jeremiah Clifton
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Napster and P2P
Less than a year after the DMCA became law – on college campuses across the nation – students were immersing themselves in the latest craze, sharing music with friends online. This was no different than the mix tape of the eighties, except now the mix tape could be given to hundreds of thousands of people at the same time instead of just one. In May of 1999 Napster Inc. (a peer-to-peer [P2P] file-sharing service) was founded and by December of that year the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) was suing Napster, Inc. for copyright infringement.1 Napster eventually lost a battle with A&M Records, Inc., and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit agreed with a lower court that Napster users had committed copyright infringement not covered under fair use and Napster may have been guilty of contributory copyright infringement.2
The recording industry’s triumph over Napster was short lived as P2P file-sharing sites and applications spread across the web into the hands of countless users. The RIAA, individual companies, and musicians3 tried to contain the fire with individual and collective lawsuits; and though most of the accused were college students and not organized piracy rings, the RIAA aggressively pursued civil remedies in court.4 The fierce legal action on the part of the RIAA brought media attention and scorn from college students, universities, libraries and various groups. As bandwidth for internet connections increased and media other than music became available through P2P services, the feasibility to fight copyright infringement on this scale only reaffirmed for publishers of digital media that prevention of infringement trumped litigation.5
  1. “Napster Timeline.” University of Alaska Anchorage, Class Website, Professor Matt Berman (Spring 2005) http://hosting.uaa.alaska.edu/auiser/econ359/. Information credited to the Associated Press February 12, 2001. Available: http://hosting.uaa.alaska.edu/auiser/econ359/links/Napstertimeline.htm. Accessed: November 28, 2008.
  2. A&M Records v. Napster, 239 F. 3d 1004 (9th Cir. 2001)
  3. Metallica being the most noted – see http://metallica.sucks.tripod.com/ and http://www.pcworld.com/article/16286/metallica_sues_napster_universities.html
  4. U.S. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Copyright Law: Digital Rights Management Legislation in the 107th and 108th Congresses (RL32035 January 5, 2005) by Robin Jeweler.
  5. Id.