Napster allows anyone online to share their music with any other
Napster user, the clever bit being that instead of downloading your
music through a website, you get it directly from their machine.
Unlike the web, which despite its early image as the great leveller of
the communications age still relies on distributing content through
specific sites, Napster is less centralised, which makes shutting it
down extremely difficult.
Unsurprisingly, this does not please musicians, whose challenge is
obvious: given that legal and technical solutions for stopping Napster
are unenforcable, how can they best protect their assets?
We can only hope that they learn from the mistakes made when MP3 (which
posed similar problems) came along, and do some serious thinking about
how they can leverage Napster’s strengths instead of denying its
Why don’t labels start taking the live recordings and oddities that are
typically the province of bootleggers and make them available through
Napster? That way they could claw back control over unlicensed
Napster is just another reminder to content owners everywhere that
copyright is not, in the long term, enforceable. The options are simple.
Owners of music rights can either refuse to acknowledge the threat, or
they can work with the technology (and those that follow it: Gnutella
and Freenet spring to mind, both of which develop and extend the ideas
behind Napster) and reap the rewards.
Owners: Shawn Fanning and the Napster Company
Site positioning: Enable music fans to locate and share media files
online from one interface
Launched: September 1999