Since we are now living in the digital age it is very easy for anyone to get a hold on intellectual property and spread it around to whoever is online. The hard thing is to track down who these people are. More government regulations are needed on the Internet to protect intellectual property. Without more laws and regulations, there will be more Napster imitators in the future. The Internet is a relatively new thing and very unpredictable at this point. New things are being discovered everyday, both for good and not-so-good reasons.
Of course there are also laws and regulations that apply to the Internet. Very few of them protect against intellectual property, but they do exist. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) passed in 1998, is a law that tried very hard in protecting all sorts of copyrighted digital material such as movies, songs, and books. "The trouble is that all forms of commercial digital copy protection have been broken quickly and efficiently, and will continue to be hacked" (Scheschuk 60).
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) accuses Napster of "contributory infringement and vicarious infringement," not of direct copyright violation. Because of this, The Staple Article Of Commerce Doctrine defends Napster of contributory infringement because Napster provides other non-infringing uses such as sampling, space shifting, and the authorized distribution of music. The Audio Home Recording Act of 1992 (AHRA) is another regulation that helps protect Napster users because it allows audio music swapping for noncommercial use (Mercer 1).
The term "Napster" is now well known amongst the people who are doing a lot of online music trading. This is a program that makes trading music online easier. It all started in 1999 when a Northeastern University dropout decided to make a program that will make it easier for people to trade MP3 files online (Kaminer 48). Shawn Fanning has now become a well-known name around the music industry. This is because people from the music business are accusing him of stealing their copyrighted music. Although this is somehow true, Fanning has a few tricks up his sleeve in his defense.
Since there are very few laws and regulations for the Internet there isn't much that the courts can say about it. There are a lot of people who are in support of Napster. Even some music artists are supporting Napster, especially the unknown bands; they want to get their music out there. Whether or not their music is copyrighted or not, Napster will do them a favor to distribute their music. Once someone hears their music and likes it, they will tell their friends about it and so on. This is sort of like free advertising for their music.
It seems as though nothing can stop this music-swapping phenomenon. People have been downloading copyrighted music for a couple of years now for free, so they think they have the right to do it. But it isn't right, it's a privilege" (Ulrich 54).
Kaminer, Wendy. "Speech for Free. " The American Prospect. 28 August 2000: 48 Mercer, Ilana. "How Things Would Work in a Copyright-free Universe. " Nationalpost. com. 26 Jan. 2001 Scheschuk, Brice. "Napster: The Power of Sharing. " Maclean's. 13 Nov. 2000: 60 Ulrich, Lars. "It's Our Property. " Newsweek. 5 June 2000: 54