Internet And Technology – Napster, Ethics, And Bandwidth On College Campuses

2047 words - 9 pages

Abstract: This paper presents an overview of the recent Napster controversy, including a focus on the continuing practice of university campuses to block access to Napster servers. An examination of said blocking is given in terms of the ethical, legal, and practical issues that surround it.For some college students, Shawn Fanning is a god, but most do not even recognize his name. Virtually every college student, however, is familiar with this Northeastern University dropout's brainchild, Napster, a relatively simple MP3-sharing program that has single-handedly brought the issue of illegal MP3 downloading and distribution to the public eye. While the MP3 format has been around since the late ...view middle of the document...

To begin the discussion leading up to the current trend of banning Napster on college campuses, an examination of the motivation behind the suits being brought against Napster is needed. As mentioned above, MP3s have been around for quite some time now, and since their conception they have been used to make illegal copies of copyrighted music. So, why the backlash from the music industry now and not ten years ago? The answer to that question is simple: money. Back in the days before Napster, it was much more difficult to find the MP3 files for the songs that you wanted. What it basically involved was signing on to leech FTP server after leech FTP server until you found one with what you were looking for. Because of this, the proliferation of MP3s was rather low, as was the hit the music companies were taking on their bottom line. Then came Napster with its fancy search capabilities and easy-to-use interface and presto, an MP3 use explosion of monumental proportions. As music companies saw their profit margins dropping slightly they suddenly began to scream "Foul!" and point their fingers at the one discernable cause in their line of sight, Napster. Money is clearly the main issue involved in suits brought against Napster. Anyone who argues that the recording industry is standing on solid ground ethically needs only look at their track record of ignoring ethical issues when they did not damage their bottom line.The fact remains, however, that the recording industry has a legitimate qualm, at least from a financial perspective, against Napster, which does seem to be cutting into their profits, especially around college campuses (Levy, 46-53). In their suit, the RIAA is alleging that Napster is guilty of tributary copyright infringement, a legal term that means they are "facilitating other people's [copyright] infringement" (Greenfield, 60-8). Apparently U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel agreed with this when she ordered that Napster be shut down in July 2000 (MSNBC Staff1). Fortunately for the company, the federal appeals court issued an emergency stay only a day after this ruling and the site was kept up (MSNBC Staff2). There was another hearing in October 2000, but nothing has yet to be resolved, and virtually all of the suits brought against Napster are still pending.This, then, brings us to the issue at hand; namely colleges banning or blocking access to Napster because of these legal issues. As of September 2000, 40% of 50 top universities in the US had announced that they were currently, or were planning on, blocking access to Napster on their networks (Lara). One might rightfully ask why all colleges have not hopped onto the bandwagon of banning Napster. It is apparent that some universities feel that banning Napster would be akin to censoring the internet and restricting students' access to information. Others simply state that they provide internet access for their students and should not be required to monitor the network...

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