The rise and fall of Napster

With one single program written in 1999, an 18-year-old computer science student at Northeastern University named Shawn Fanning will unwittingly transform forever how people use the internet. The name of his program was Napster. Named after the teenage nickname for its diaper hair, Napster was a free download program that could transform individual computers into servers that share MP3 music files over the Internet. Instead of a central server where all the music files were stored, Napster instead worked as a medium. Users could log into Napster, search for an artist or song title, and then continue downloading directly from another logged-in user’s hard drive. In just over a year after its initial launch, Napster soon became one of the most notorious and hated sites in internet history. At its peak, Napster garnered a total of about 60 million users worldwide (Collins, 2002). Little did Fanning realize that his child would soon become as ubiquitous on the internet as email and instant messaging. Not even Fanning realized the ensuing legal storm his creature would eventually create. Finally, what began as a simple program written for his friends to share music soon caught the attention of not only young people around the world, but also the fury of the audio industry.

The story of Napster begins just south of Boston, in Brockton, Massachusetts. 17-year-old Colleen Fanning was a high school student there in 1980. One night, her older brother staged a party celebrating her high school graduation and hired a local band called "MacBeth" to play at a party. It was a great success: about 3,000 people did mobbing. Colleen's younger brother John went around the hat and raised money to pay the band, and by the end of the night, he'd caught a few thousand, his first entrepreneurial experience. That same night, Fannings say, Colleen hooked up with one of the musicians and wounded himself pregnant. With the support of his father, Colleen kept the baby and named him Shawn. However, he was the father of Shawn's biological father who was the son of one of the richest families in Massachusetts. Colleen eventually married a former Marine who was driving a delivery truck to a local bakery. His name was Raymond Verrier. The couple had four other children, and Colleen took care of them while her husband worked. "Money has always been a pretty big deal," Shawn said in a 2000 Business Week article. He added: "There was a lot of tension about this" (Ante, 2000).

Shawn grew up near public housing projects in Brockton. At the time, Verrier could see her already shy son withdrawing from the inner chaos that surrounded him constantly. "He got into himself really deep and said, 'I want to get out of this. & # 39; Although it meant losing him a little bit, that's what I wanted for him, "said Verrier, then employed as a nurse's assistant. As Shawn grew older, Verrier turned to his business-oriented brother John to help guide her son. an incentive to learn, for every "A" brought from school by his uncle John Fanning gave him money, and he also bought his nephew an Apple Macintosh computer that Verrier could never have the money for (Menn, 2003). Fanning continued to deteriorate, however, and his parents' relationship finally culminated when his mother and stepfather separated. is here to offer support to his young nephew Shawn worked as an intern at at his Uncle John's online company NetGames in the nearby town of Hull in the summer. o quite adept at programming from fellow interns studying computer science at Carnegie Mellon University. Yet despite John becoming interested in his nephew, Shawn was unwilling to accept his uncle's work ethic. Shawn had difficulty completing tasks and instead often focused on playing video games. "I was just programming, so I spent a lot of time just doing projects and hanging out," Shawn said (Ante, 2000). However, it was at this time that Shawn learned of what would soon make him infamous, MP3 digital music files (Menn, 2003).

Shortly after graduating from Harwich High School in 1998, Shawn enrolled at nearby Northeastern University. What would eventually become Napster was created in the freshman room, Fanning's roommate at Northeastern University. After hearing complaints from his roommate who found nothing but a dead link for MP3 music files with conventional search engines like Lycos and Yahoo !, Shawn looked for an easier alternative. His idea was simple. He wanted to combine the usual ease of use of the Internet with file transfer technology similar to Internet Relay Chat (IRC) networks. Shawn knew there had to be a way to combine the breadth of search engines like Google with "presence awareness" systems like instant messaging, who know who is logged in at any time (Menn, 2003). This is combined with the ability for individual users to choose which files will be shared with others while connected to the Napster network. These innovative elements of the Napster program and network have finally eliminated the problems associated with dead connections. In addition, all users store music on their own computers, electronic tubes would not become clogged if the new system only connected a couple of people and then switched their own connection to them (Menn, 2003). Finally, a feature was added to these elements that allowed Napster's online users to talk to each other in real time.

Shawn quit northeast in January 1999 to devote full time to perfecting his invention. According to former colleague Tarek Loubani, he rarely saw anyone so focused. "I don't think people can appreciate how hard he worked," Loubani said (Menn, 2003). He only vaguely remembers that stage in mid-1999, unable to recall the exact months, weeks or days. Among those only memories he has left of that time is on his Dell laptop, writing the code and sniffing on his uncle John's sofa or floor. Fearing that the software company would introduce a similar product before it, he obsessively wrote the entire Napster source code at 60 hours (Greenfeld, 2000). In May 1999, Shawn's Uncle John incorporated the company into Napster. John Fanning would retain a 70% stake in the corporation, while nephew Shawn would retain only a 30% stake in the corporation. The excuse offered by Uncle John was that Shawn desperately needed an experienced businessman like him to handle the nuances of running a company. (Menn, 2003).

Word spread quickly around campus at Northeastern University as soon as their former classmate Shawn prepared the Napster beta program, which was ready for testing on June 1, 1999. Soon, hundreds of students completed the music trade. This new revolutionary file sharing service has quickly become the voice between online literate frequent message boards and chat rooms. The Napster network grew and developed rapidly. Faced with the prospect of unprecedented popularity in such a short space of time, Fannings set out to raise capital for additional bandwidth and servers. The company moved from Hull, Massachusetts, to San Mateo, California, to a more spacious location and employed additional workers. The additional capital investment in Napster arrived just in time. Napster became so popular that some college campuses experienced clogged servers from the amount that students use only Napster. Schools like Pennsylvania State University in 1999 declared a moratorium on using Napster on campus computers and Internet connections in an attempt to alleviate the problem. Napster's troubles were just beginning.

The infamy eventually caught the attention of the American Sound Industry Association (RIAA). The RIAA filed a lawsuit against Napster on December 7, 1999, alleging copyright infringement. Furthermore, the RIAA claimed $ 10,000 in damages for each individual song on the Napster network. The unprecedented lawsuit has garnered a lot of media attention and further fueled Napster's popularity, especially with students. Escalating groups of young people descended on Napster to make music changes, and the community soon encouraged millions of members worldwide. At any given time during this period, there would be millions of users online, trading hundreds of thousands of songs.

Later, in the spring of 2000, heavy metal band Metallica learned that the unreleased studio release of their song "I Disappear" had leaked and was traded on Napster. The result was that the single was heard on numerous radio stations across America. Metallica was determined to discover how the song had become so widespread. The obvious culprit was Napster. A copyright lawsuit was filed on April 13, 2000. After hiring consulting firm PDNet, Metallica soon discovered that over one weekend in April 2000, over 335,000 individual Napster users traded music online. On May 3, 2000, Napster was presented with 60,000 pages of usernames that allegedly traded copyrighted Metallica song copyrights across the Napster network. Metallica demanded that Napster ban 335,000 users from trading their copyrights, and Napster agreed. Napster lawyer Laurence Pulgram said: "Napster has taken extraordinary steps to fulfill Metallica's requests to block hundreds of thousands of its fans from using the Napster system." He further added: "Napster has always stated that it will act in response to the copyright owner's notices and has fulfilled that obligation in good faith." (Dansby and Uhelszki, 2000).

Napster received a fatal legal blow on May 5, 2000. U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel ruled Napster was not entitled to a "safe harbor" under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1992. Napster's original defense of the RIAA suit was that it was included in section 1008. This section explicitly states in the Act:

"Nothing under this heading may be brought against an alleged copyright infringement (1) based on the production, import or distribution of a digital audio recorder, digital audio recorder, analogue recorder or analogue recording medium, or (2) which is based on the non-commercial use of such device or medium for the production of digital music recordings or analogue music recordings. "

The court found that Napster users were involved in widespread copyright infringement. Furthermore, the judgment also stated that Napster "contributes and is rightly responsible for its actions." The exemption from section 1008 of the AHRA is not applicable here, because the Act provides immunity only from non-commercial copying and not from public distribution. The Napster network consisted of over 20 million people. Therefore, every time a user logs on to the network and shares hard drive content, he distributes copyrighted material to the masses. Section 1008 of the AHRA deals with the reproduction and not the distribution of copyrighted material. Therefore, according to the court, Napster users were infringing the copyright infringement and Napster was alleging copyright infringement. Judge Patel granted the RIAA's request for a preliminary injunction, and the venue was ordered to close on July 26, 2000.

Meanwhile, Napster appealed the judgment on October 2, 2000. Napster's appeal was lost on February 12, 2001. Napster's $ 1 billion bid to settle out of court with the audio industry was soon rejected. On March 5, 2001, the Ninth Circuit Court ordered Napster to discontinue trade in copyrighted material on its network. Because of this, Napster started using filters in its browser. The Napster system has completely blocked any artist or song title that is protected by copyright from user searches. Popular artists and song titles no longer appear in search results. As a consequence, smart Napster users bypassed the filters by deliberately misspelling the artist or song title on their hard drives. Napster users could still download copyrighted music. As a consequence, Napster completely shut down the entire network in July 2001 to comply fully with the court order. On September 24, 2001, Napster reconciled with copyright owners with $ 26 million in illegal use of music and $ 10 million in advance to cover upcoming licensing agreements. On May 17, 2002, Napster announced an agreement with the German company Bertelsmann AG. The agreement will allow Napster's subscriber form to develop and present the music catalog of Bertelsmann AG, in return for the German company to drop its lawsuit against Napster. However, on June 3, 2001, Napster filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11. The sale to Bertelsmann AG was blocked and Napster was forced to confiscate the remaining assets.

The current legal embodiment of Napster is a subscription-based payment service. Roxio auctioned Napster's property in 2002. According to Wikipedia (2005), members who can temporarily rent songs will be charged a monthly fee of $ 9.95, with the option of paying an additional $ 0.80 to $ 0.90 to download the songs permanently. While the new Napster has only a fraction of the old Napster's popularity, others have filled a void in the world of peer-to-peer file sharing. Popular services like Kazaa, Limewire and Morpheus use technology that Shawn Fanning has made notorious. However, where the original Napster had a central server, these services rely on direct connection with other network users. They are inherently more difficult to regulate copyright infringement and are similarly nearly impossible to stop.