The implications of Judge Patel's Napster ruling may be far
wider than you realize. Is file sharing illegal? Are links subject
to lawuits? Or will this ruling do to music software developers
what the legislature did to encryption software developers —
drive them outside the United States?
Quick! Get your programmers to work adjusting your Web sites.
You must forbid "E-mail This Story to a Friend" file sharing
features on your Web sites or face the wrath of publishers trying
to protect copyrighted material.
After all, Web publishers own the legal rights to the stories?
Surely the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material must
end. Journalists are starving while readers on the Net pirate their
U.S. District Chief Judge
Marylin Hall Patel doesn't think so. Judge Patel used the same
line of thought Wednesday when she determined that Napster is in clear violation of
copyright infringement laws.
Judge Patel said that Napster designed a system that enables
piracy. She also dismissed Napster's argument that it was protected
under the Audio Home Recording Act, a 1992 ruling, which
essentially says that simply because a recording has been made does
not mean copyright infringement has taken place.
In doing so, Judge Patel said "that ruling was in regards to a
recording device. Napster is not a device, it is an Internet
So let's see, a technology that points to a server's stored
copyrighted material is piracy. Does this mean Yahoo!, a
technology-based directory that points to Web destinations that may
contain copyrighted material violates the law?
Ignoring the fact that all Web content is served to a viewer as
a form of file sharing, The U.S. District Court ordered that
Napster close its music-swapping portal by midnight Friday.
Could one court kill file sharing and peer-to-peer communication
over the Web? Apparently so, with the injunction in place at the
request of the Recording Industry Association of America, it's
apparent that Friday, July 28, 2000 officially that day that the
music will die.
Artists against technology
Artists Against Piracy, an artist-driven coalition formed to
give recording artists a voice in determining how their music is
distributed on the Internet, said a company should not be able to
co-opt other peoples' copyrights.
Noah Stone, AAP director, said as an industry, we must find a
way to give music fans what they want, which is fast and easy music
on the Internet.
"While Napster, the technology, is very compelling, Napster the
business, has shown no respect for the artists who create the music
everyone wants to hear, download, trade and profit from," Stone
But don't count Napster out. Napster users are uniting to urge
that users send the RIAA
a message and it should not shut down the music sharing
services. Web destinations like Geek Extreme are mad as hell, but
angry e-mails won't save Napster now.
Hank Barry, Napster chief executive, said that the injunction
would indeed have the effect of shutting the company down.
Napster forced the music industry to try and get its Net act
together, much like Beta tape technology parented the video
recording industry. It was a painful birth surrounded by
controversy, which could not go mainstream until the motion picture
industry awoke from its 60mm coma to embrace the new video
Napster shook the recording industry from its money-hungry
stupor in an attempt to do the same thing videotape did for film:
Wake up and smell the profits.
Analysts anticipate that the RIAA or a consortium of major
recording labels may step in to rescue Napster with some type of
last minute settlement that puts the file-sharing technology firm
in the hands of recording industry.
Rather than suing Napster, the major labels should buy it. Doing
so would save development time down the road. But if history and
the volume of e-mail rants are relevant indicators, this is an
industry that would rather fight than move forward.
It's likely sometime in the near future that Napster will cease
to exist, permanently. The company has nearly no revenue and a
large percentage of its funding is being diverted fuel its legal
defense. The recording industry that wants it dead and company will
run out of money in short order. The labels have nothing to fear
from Napster the company.
When Napster goes out of business, the technology will remain.
Napster simplified music distribution. While Napster may be on the
ropes, the open-source Gnutella project will live. Since
the program does not maintain a server-based database like Napster,
there's no one to sue.
If the RIAA wants to stop Gnutella, it's going to have to
prosecute music lovers on the Web. Hardly a victory for recording
artists if the music industry has to bite the hand that feeds
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