Second version (revised 2001) of Napster logo: Cat wearing headphones.
Napster was a file sharing service that paved the way for decentralized P2P file-sharing programs such as Kazaa, Limewire, imesh, and BearShare, which are now used for many the same reasons and can download music, pictures, and other files. The popularity and reprecussions of the first Napster have made it a legendary icon in the computer and entertainment fields.
Napster's brand and logo continue to be used by a pay service, having been acquired by Roxio.
Napster 2.0 Beta 7's file transfer screen during Napster's heyday. Note the Search, Library and Transfer buttons, prototypical of the many peer-to-peer systems to follow.
Shawn Fanning along with friends Sean Parker first released the original Napster on June 1, 1999 while Fanning was attending Northeastern University in Boston. Fanning wanted an easier method of finding music than by searching IRC or Lycos. John Fanning of Hull, Massachusetts, who is Shawn's uncle, struck an agreement which gave Shawn 30% control of the company, with the rest going to his uncle. Napster began to build an office and executive team in San Mateo, California, in September of 1999. Napster was the first of the massively popular peer-to-peer file sharing systems, although it was not fully peer-to-peer since it used central servers to maintain lists of connected systems and the files they provided—directories, effectively—while actual transactions were conducted directly between machines. Although there were already media which facilitated the sharing of files across the Internet, such as IRC, Hotline, and USENET, Napster specialized exclusively in music in the form of MP3 files and presented a user-friendly interface. The result was a system whose popularity generated an enormous selection of music to download.
Irrespective of these justifications, many other users simply enjoyed trading and downloading music for free. With the files obtained through Napster, people frequently made their own compilation albums on recordable CDs, without paying any royalties to the copyright holder. High-speed networks in college dormitories became overloaded, with as much as 80% of external network traffic consisting of MP3 file transfers. Many colleges blocked its use for this reason, even before concerns about liability for facilitating copyright violations on campus. As a partial solution to this issue, Napster was used as a test case for the Abilene Network, the educational Internet backbone.
 Legal challenges
Napster peaked in February 2001
Heavy metal band Metallica discovered that a demo of their song ‘I Disappear’ had been circulating across the Napster network, even before it was released. This eventually led to the song being played on several radio stations across America and brought to Metallica’s attention that their entire back catalogue of studio material was also available. The band responded in 2000 by filing a lawsuit against the service offered by Napster. A month later, rapper Dr. Dre shared a litigator and legal firm with Metallica, and filed a similar lawsuit after Napster wouldn't remove his works from their service, even after he issued a written request. Separately, both Metallica and Dr. Dre later delivered thousands of usernames to Napster who they believed were pirating their songs. Metallica asked their group of users to be banned from the service, while Dr. Dre again asked for his songs to be removed from the service. All users who were on the list of either artist were banned, but a file began circulating soon after the ban took effect that edited the Windows registry and reversed the changes implemented by the ban. Napster complied with Metallica's request, but not Dr. Dre's, and both the suits continued. A whole year had passed since the lawsuits began, Napster settled them both, but this came after being shut down by the Ninth Circuit Court in a separate lawsuit from several major record labels (see below). Also in 2000, Madonna, who had previously met with Napster executives to discuss a possible partnership, became irate when her single "Music" leaked out on to the web and Napster prior to its commercial release, causing widespread media coverage. Verified Napster use peaked with 26.4 million users worldwide in February 2001.
At the time, the lawsuits were opposed by Napster users and supporters. To them, it seemed that file sharing was inevitable on the Internet, and it was not Napster's fault that people used the service to share copyrighted files. These users viewed Napster as a simple search engine. Many argued that any attempt to shut down Napster would simply lead to people using a different medium to exchange files over the Internet. Similarly, many supporters of Napster were concerned about the media's constant use of the word "site" to describe the service, a word which seems to imply that Napster was distributing files itself rather than allowing their exchange between users.
Also, in 2001, A&M records was granted a preliminary injunction against Napster for engaging in, or facilitating others in copying, downloading, uploading, transmitting, or distributing plaintiffs' copyrighted musical compositions and sound recordings. Napster appealed this ruling by the district court on the grounds of fair use. The appellate court found that the district court did not budge in denying the fair use defense, but the appellate court found that there was an error in how the court said Napster should police access to its system. The court's opinion had the result of making the plaintiff notify Napster of potential copyright infringement on their system before Napster had a duty to remove the material.
 Promotional power
Along with the accusations that Napster was hurting the sales of the record industry, there were those who felt just the opposite, that file trading on Napster actually stimulated, rather than hurt, sales. Proof may have come in July 2000 when tracks from English rock band Radiohead's album Kid A found their way to Napster three months before the CD's release. Unlike Madonna, Dr. Dre or Metallica, Radiohead had never hit the top 20 in the US. Furthermore, Kid A was an experimental album without any singles, and received relatively little radio airplay. By the time of the record's release, the album was estimated to have been downloaded for free by millions of people worldwide, yet in October 2000 Kid A captured the number one spot on the Billboard 200 sales chart in its debut week. According to Richard Menta of MP3 Newswire, the effect of Napster in this instance was isolated from other elements that could be credited for driving sales, and the album's unexpected success was proof that Napster was a good promotional tool for music (however, according to other sources , the album was very highly marketed, albeit in an unconventional manner, making use of "legitimate" online methods in addition to file sharing).
Since 2000, many musical artists, particularly those not signed to major labels and without access to traditional mass media outlets such as radio and television, have said that Napster and successive Internet file-sharing networks have helped get their music heard, spread word of mouth, and may have improved their sales in the long term. Although some underground musicians and independent labels have expressed support for Napster and the p2p model it popularized, others have criticized the unregulated and extra-legal nature of these networks, and some seek to implement models of Internet promotion in which they can control the distribution of their own music, such as providing free tracks for download or streaming from their official websites, or co-operating with pay services such as Insound, Rhapsody and Apple's iTunes Store.
Radiohead themselves provide an example of both reactions. While expressing enthusiasm for Napster in 2000, when Radiohead songs freely available on the network helped familiarize their live audiences with their new material in advance of the album's release, the band expressed disapproval in 2003Hail to the Thief was leaked to internet filesharing networks several months in advance of its release. This was a different situation than the Kid A leak, however, as the copy of Hail To The Thief that leaked was a copy stolen from their studio before they could put finishing touches on the album, while the Kid A leaks were finished tracks.
when their album
Napster's facilitation of transfer of copyrighted material raised the ire of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which almost immediately — in December 1999 — filed a lawsuit against the popular service. The service would only get bigger as the trial, meant to shut down Napster, also gave it a great deal of publicity. Soon millions of users, many of them college students, flocked to it.
After a failed appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court, an injunction was issued on March 5, 2001 ordering Napster to prevent the trading of copyrighted music on its network. In July 2001, Napster shut down its entire network in order to comply with the injunction. On September 24, 2001, the case was partially settled. Napster agreed to pay music creators and copyright owners a $26 million settlement for past, unauthorized uses of music, as well as an advance against future licensing royalties of $10 million. In order to pay those fees, Napster attempted to convert their free service to a subscription system. A prototype solution was tested in the spring of 2002: the Napster 3.0 Alpha, using audio fingerprinting technology licensed from Relatable. Napster 3.0 was, according to many former Napster employees, ready to deploy, but it had significant trouble obtaining licenses to distribute major-label music.
On May 17, 2002, Napster announced that its assets would be acquired by German media firm Bertelsmann for $8 million. Pursuant to terms of that agreement, on June 3 Napster filed for Chapter 11 protection under United States bankruptcy laws. On September 3, 2002, an American bankruptcy judge blocked the sale to Bertelsmann and forced Napster to liquidate its assets according to Chapter 7 of the U.S. bankruptcy laws. Most of the Napster staff were laid off, and the website changed to display "Napster was here".
 Current status
After a $2.43 million takeover offer by the Private Media Group, an adult entertainment company, Napster's brand and logos were acquired at bankruptcy auction by the company Roxio, Inc. which used them to rebrand the pressplay music service as Napster 2.0.
Although the central servers used by Napster made it a convenient legal target, the record industry failed to capitalize on the power vacuum left in its wake. The years between Napster's demise and the emergence of the iTunes Music Store as the first popular pay-service were squandered as the five major labels failed to agree on a single service or standard for online distribution, launching several mutually incompatible subscription services such as pressplay and MusicNet.
In the meantime, the peer-to-peer filesharing trend Napster started soon resumed, with new programs and networks picking up the torch. Unofficial Napster servers proliferated, aided by a program known as "Napigator", and a second generation of P2P protocols (including FastTrack and Gnutella) were quickly developed. Designed as decentralized networks, these have been much more challenging for copyright owners to pursue in the courts (see MGM v. Grokster).
The ever-widening availability of broadband has made file sharing even more prevalent, since increasing download speeds mean the distribution of entire movies and other large files is possible. An emerging and cryptographically strong third generation of P2P protocols will be nearly impossible to interdict.
 Popular culture
In the 2003 remake of The Italian Job, a flashback depicts Shawn Fanning (playing himself) stealing the program from a computer expert played by Seth Green while the latter is napping, providing a humorous folk etymology for the name.
The suffix "-ster" has become a popular component of the brand names of many Internet products, suggesting a peer-to-peer model, such as Grokster, Aimster (later Madster), and Blubster. This has also been extended to Friendster, a site which vaguely recalls Napster's community-building features.,
An episode of animated television series Futurama, I Dated a Robot, centres on the illegal distribution of robotic celebrity clones over the Internet. The organization responsible for this was thought to be named "Nappster," a reference to Napster. It was later revealed, however, that the full name was "Kidnappster" with a piece of tapestry covering "Kid" from the logo.
In the South Park episode Christian Rock Hard, Stan, Kyle, and Kenny illegally download music from Napster for inspiration for their band 'Moop.' They are then caught by police and shown the horrors music pirating does to musicians. After seeing this, they start a strike and famous musicians/bands join them, among them are Rancid, Master P, Ozzy Osbourne, Meat Loaf (all four also playing in Chef Aid), Blink-182, Horny Toad, Metallica, Britney Spears, Missy Elliot, Alanis Morissette and The Lords of the Underworld (minus Timmy).
In the animated Disney series, The Proud Family, Penny becomes addicted to a site named Ez Jackster, a parody of Napster that allows music to be downloaded illegally.
A tribute song to file sharing "Napster and Gnutella" was written to the tune of "Puff the magic Dragon" and distributed via OpenNap servers during the lawsuit.
- ^ Borland, John. "Unreleased Madonna Single Slips On To Net", CNET News.com, June 1, 2000.
- ^ Jupiter Media Metrix (July 20, 2001). Global Napster Usage Plummets, But New File-Sharing Alternatives Gaining Ground. Press Release.
- ^ Ghosemajumder, Shuman. Advanced Peer-Based Technology Business Models. P2P Industry Model from MIT, 2002.
- ^ Menta, Richard. "Did Napster Take Radiohead's New Album to Number 1?", MP3 Newswire, October 28, 2000.
- ^ A & M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc., 114 F. Supp. 2d 896 (N.D. Cal. 2000), aff'd in part, rev'd in part, 239 F.3d 1004 (9th Cir. 2001)
- ^ Menta, Richard. "RIAA Sues Music Startup Napster for $20 Billion", MP3 Newswire, December 9, 1999.
- ^ 2001 US Dist. LEXIS 2186 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 5, 2001), aff’d, 284 F. 3d 1091 (9th Cir. 2002).
- ^ Evangelista, Benny. "Napster runs out of lives – judge rules against sale", San Francisco Chronicle, September 4, 2002.
- ^ "Porn company offers to buy Napster", CNET News.com, September 12, 2002.
- ^ Dube, Ric. (February 2002). MusicNet, PressPlay Fall Short. Ice Magazine, (179).
- ^ Grimmelmann, James. "Blogster", The Laboratorium, July 18, 2003.
- ^ Abrams, Jonathan. SXSW Interactive Keynote Speech. South by Southwest festival. Austin, TX. March 16, 2004.
- Carlsson, Bengt and Gustavsson, Rune. 2001. "The Rise and Fall of Napster - An Evolutionary Approach." Proceedings of the 6th International Computer Science Conference on Active Media Technology.
- Geisler, Markus and Pohlmann, Mali. 2003. "The Social Form of Napster: Cultivating the Paradox of Consumer Emancipation." Advances in Consumer Research.
- Geisler, Markus and Pohlmann, Mali. 2003. "The Anthropology of File Sharing: Consuming Napster as a Gift." Advances in Consumer Research.
- Green, Matthew. 2002. "Napster Opens Pandora’s Box: Examining How File-Sharing Services Threaten the Enforcement of Copyright on the Internet." Ohio State Law Journal. 63: 799.
- Ku, Raymond Shih Ray, "The Creative Destruction of Copyright: Napster and the New Economics of Digital Technology" . University of Chicago Law Review, Forthcoming Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=266964. or DOI: 10.2139/ssrn.266964
- McCourt, Tom and Burkart, Patrick. 2003. "When Creators, Corporations and Consumers Collide: Napster and the Development of On-line Music Distribution." Media, Culture, & Society. 25 (3): 333-350.
 See also
 External links