This research was supported by Name of Acknowledgement/ Name of Program.
WHY NAPSTER WAS UNETHICAL? 2
Napster which functioned from June 1999 to July 2001 was a free Internet software program which facilitated ground-breaking and influential means for peer-to-peer file sharing, characteristically music files, which were in MP3 format. According to Ryan O'Donnell’s podcast, “The story behind Napster”, on Youtube (2013) Shawn Fanning, John Fanning, and Sean Parker co-founded Napster. The technology behind this software allowed people to duplicate, collect, and pass on MP3 files with other members through a user-friendly interface. Napster had about eighty million registered users. With a username and password any member of Napster was able to connect to the Napster system. Users were able to load music files onto their individual computers and a user in any other site could retrieve that file as per his requirement. Thus, users were able to download free music and create a compilation album. Because of these, thousands of people made copies of copyrighted songs without paying royalties or money to the music industry or the artists (Tyson, 2000). The sharing of files on Napster replaced probable sales of Compact Discs of original compositions and sound recordings.
Prasad(n.d) has reviewed that, Napster violated the laws of society as it was unfair towards artists and music industry. Artists lost recognition and monetary compensation, which lead to the loss of business of various music companies. For user’s individual gain to get free music the honest buyer was negatively motivated to use Napster. Napster breached many codes of ethics, by dishonoring property rights including copyrights and patent, by not giving proper credit to intellectual property and by ignoring and disrespecting existing laws pertaining to the professional work. Napster also violated the trustworthiness of employers, customers and subordinates. It also represented infidelity towards public needs, personal honor and professional honesty. It also challenged the rule of adequate compensation for engineering work and did not give appropriate credit for engineering work. By utilizing other’s work as one’s own, Napster pirated, shared and disseminated software without consent of the owner. Napster unethically made money by taking advantage of other’s work and did not give recognition to the owner which they deserved. Napster violated Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation laws under section 512 (b, c) regarding the practice of retaining copies from the original source, storage of information on systems or networks at the directions of users. Napster intentionally encouraged and supported the infringement of copyright. It violated two exclusive rights of owners; the right of reproduction and distribution. Under Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), 1998 Napster violated two important laws; contributory infringement and vicarious infringement. Contributory infringement was executed by Napster as it practiced direct infringement by third party and the users had knowledge of infringement. Napster did not prevent distribution of copyrighted material. On the other hand, it practiced vicarious infringement by allowing users to enjoy monitoring and controlling services.
On December 7, 1999 the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) filed a lawsuit against this well-liked service on the grounds of providing facility to transfer copyrighted material. Later in the year 2000, on account of contributory and vicarious copyright infringement under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) the American musical recording company A&M Records along with quite a lot of other recording companies also sued Napster. The founders of Napster presented a defense that the files downloaded were the personal files kept on individual user’s computer and that it was using the “Fair Use”, Copyright Act of 1976, therefore they were not responsible for any violation in Copyrights’ Act. The court rejected this defense on the grounds of the purpose, amount used, nature of copyrighted work and effect on potential market (Crews, 2001).
WHY NAPSTER WAS UNETHICAL? 3
Donnell, R. (2013, October 4). The story behind Napster. Podcast retrieved from
Tyson, J. (2000, October 30). How the Old Napster Worked. Howstuffworks. Retrieved from
Prasad, T. Napster: Ethical and legal issues theory [PDF document]. Retrieved from
Crews, K. (2001, September 18). Case Summary A&M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc.:
Implications for the Digital Music Library [PDF document]. Retrieved from