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The Napster Debate

The Napster software (http://www.napster.com), established in May of 1999, allows Internet users to share and download MP3 files directly from any computer connected to the Napster network. The software downloads a client program from the Napster site and then connects to the network through the software. This allows sharing (uploading and downloading) of MP3 files between all users connected to the network. Napster also allows users to speak to one another by ways of instant messages, chat rooms, and Hot List user bookmarks. Napster does not condone copyright infringement, but leaves no opportunity in the software to stop this from happening. Napster also does not provide artists with royalties for their music. People can now download music for free in their own homes and artists can release their music themselves. This could mean the end of record labels and other associated companies, causing artists and record companies to worry. Napster challenges the music industry's monopoly on distributionUnlike similar file-sharing software such as Gnutella and Freenet, Napster limits users to uploading/downloading of MP3 files only. (http://gnutella.wego.com/) and (http://freenet.sourceforge.net/) MP3 files approximate one-tenth the size of the corresponding wave files and can be close to CD-quality. This reason causes many artists, record labels, and other music industry stakeholders to be concerned by MP3 file formats like Napster that simplify the sharing of copyrighted material. Other file formats commonly used on the Internet do not seem to be a threat to the recording industry primarily due to the reduced quality of the recording. Real audio files have reduced sound quality, as compared to a radio, and usually stream over different protocols. This allows people to listen to songs without having to download the source files. Midi, another music file format, can be commonly found on the Internet. These files pose no threat to t...

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