Shawn Fanning let his closely cropped coiffure grow a bit shaggy, so his friends started calling him “nappy. ” That evolved into a new nickname, “Napster,” which became the Internet handle he used in chat rooms. After sharing tips on guitar playing, Fanning told two cyberpals about a revolutionary software program he was working on. Encouraged by his new friends, he wrote the program and the idea attracted a sizable cash donation from a family friend. So he quit college, moved from Harwich, Mass. , to Silicon Valley, and started a company together with his two buddies. That was sevral months ago.
Today, 19-year-old Fanning and his company, Napster, have become the Internet’s latest one-hit wonder. Hundreds of thousands of college students and music fans have downloaded the firm’s free software, which allows users to swap MP3 songs, the Net’s most popular digital music format. Napster, whose latest software will be released this week, has seen its user base grow by as much as 25 percent a day. Says Napster CEO Eileen Richardson, “We see ourselves as the MTV of the Internet,” But Napster has made some powerful enemies in its brief existence. Musicians and record companies accuse it of creating an online den of thieves.
Last December, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), representing 18 record labels, sued Napster for copyright violations, seeking to shut it down and collect more than $100 million in damages. Rapper Sean “Puffy” Combs says Napster abuses his artists. And in the past two months, at least 50 universities have blocked students from accessing Napster, saying it strains campus computer systems. All the outrage is a result of Napster’s unique design, which fosters music sharing but also hogs bandwidth. The company doesn’t own or sell any music.
Its software merely acts as a digital matchmaker, allowing people to trade MP3 songs. Napster peeks into a user’s hard drive and publishes a list of all the songs it finds there onto a central database. To locate a tune, a user enters the name of an artist or a song to see if anyone else on the network has it. If so, they can download it at the push of a button. In this way, Napster has created the Net’s largest music library. Now all of us have downloaded music of the internet and most of us have also used Napster but as we all know Indiana University is one of the fifty odd universities that have banned Napster on campus servers.
This is a situation that affects us directly as universitys like Duke,Stanford and M. I. T have refused The R. I. A. A. requests to ban Napster. Thus according to me we should all be better informed of this situation to know why we are being deprived of such a cutting edge program. The Napster case is very important not only because people wont be able to download free music if its ruled illegal, but because the case will serve as a major guide for the future. It is a foreshadowing of the future. As technology becomes more and more advanced, we will constantly be faced with similar questions.