RIAA vs NAPSTER
One of the most talked about cases in the news today concerning copyright on the Internet is between the Recording Industry Association of America and Napster. Napster is a centralized service that facilitates the copying of MP3 files from one computer to another1. It is a “virtual meeting place” where one user can find files in the computer of another user who is participating in the program at the same time. Once the user finds the desired file, “Napster then facilitates the direct peer-to-peer copying and transfer of those files”2.
The peer-to-peer technology complicates copyright law because most of the files that are exchanged are copyrighted3. In December 1999, RIAA charged both Napster and its users with copyright infringement because of the trading of copyrighted musical recordings. Napster denied that copyright infringement had taken place both on its part and on the part of its users, basing its defence on Section 1008 of the Audio Home Recording Act, which allows unlimitedcopying for personal use. On March 5, 2001 United StatesDistrict Judge Marilyn Hall Patel issued an injunction againstNapster, requiring the company to stop the trading of copyrighted songs. Recently, Napster has begun using a filtering technology called “digital fingerprinting” to remove the copyrighted MP3 files from its service.
The Napster example brings to the light the true complexity of copyright on the Internet. Peer-to-Peer trading is only one example of the new technologies that will come to be on the Net. With the arrival of new technology will come many changes. If Napster is forced to close its doors, the peer-to-peer trading system will not die off, due to the fact that there are other sites that are similar which will continue to trade MP3 files. Will the government close every one of these sites? Is it necessary to close them? With the continuous evolution of technology, our society will inevitably undergo many changes, but this does not mean that they will all be negative. In the past, copyright laws have been adapted to new technology; every new type brings with it a bit of controversy. Will copyright become obsolete on the Internet? We still do not know the answer to this question. The Internet is a new type of entity, never seen before now. It has already changed, and will change, much in the world we live in. The laws will change, or they will remain the same, but for now this does not interest us. The Internet is another world, parallel to the real world, a universe in itself in which different identities live and conflict. Perhaps, in a future not far off, these two worlds will unite to become one, or perhaps the gap between them will growFor now we must find an equilibrium, entering into both worlds, respecting the rights of others and, most importantly, respecting the laws that could very well decide our future.