FOR BOTH THE COMPUTER SAVVY AND THE TECHNOLOGICALLY CHALLENGED,
two words will become central to future Internet adventures: Napster
Industry Association of America is suing the creators of Napster
— a music sharing service that allows users to obtain electronic
music files called MP3s without paying for them. Some musicians
and music companies believe the site cuts into their profits and
will eliminate the need for their CDs and tapes.
users, this lawsuit will be the first of many to create boundaries
for the Internet where copyright law is constantly ignored, according
to Carol Simpson, UNT assistant professor of library and information
the Internet is an open frontier where people can freely download
everything from CDs to books as long as someone is willing to upload
is that while copyright laws are as old as this country and addressed
in the U.S. Constitution, the Internet is a modern-day Wild West.
And the law doesn’t quite know what to do yet, Simpson says.
downloaded everything from Dilbert cartoons to movie clips from
the web, and all of it’s illegal without the appropriate consent,”
says Simpson, a nationally recognized copyright expert. “The law
just hasn’t caught up with technology — we’ve still got Supreme
Court justices who use typewriters instead of computers.”
Napster is new, the concerns that it causes are not.
music executives have filed suit against Napster’s 19-year-old creator,
Shawn Fanning, movie and TV executives sued Sony for creating the
its wisdom, the Supreme Court said technology can’t be illegal just
because it can be used to violate copyright law — the same could
apply now,” Simpson says.
Napster competitor MP3.com lost a lawsuit to a music company for
illegally uploading CDs to the Internet, directly violating copyright
law. Napster, like the VCR, simply provides a means by providing
the software that could be used to violate the law. The site’s users
are the ones who cross the same line that MP3 did, Simpson explains.
likely that Napster software will join the ranks of VCRs, tape recorders
and copiers, causing great change by forcing an industry to adapt
to new technology, says Dee Knight, a lecturer in merchandising
and hospitality management who studies small businesses.
is only part of the problem for small business,” she says. “Entrepreneurs
and small business owners are already competing with the Internet
and the world.
must learn to use Napster technology to their advantage and provide
a service. That’s what small music shops are discovering now and
what big industry must learn.”
a major player in the music industry took its first steps toward
learning this lesson. Bertelsmann AG, which owns BMG Entertainment,
broke from the groups suing Napster to form a partnership with it.
Bertelsmann is working to use the Napster technology to its own
what, the technology is going to continue to develop and advance,
says Stephen Tate, associate professor of computer sciences.
naysayers eliminate Napster, there are more than 50 Napster clones
as well as several Napster descendants that are nearly impossible
to track. Gnutella, one of these offspring, lets a user’s computer
talk to others linked to the Internet and download music, images
and even movie files directly. Unlike Napster, there’s no central
web site or company to sue.
you can still tell who is logged on and what they are downloading,”
Tate says. “But things are changing so quickly that even that problem
has been eliminated through Freenet.”
also directly networks computers without a central site, but the
user information and the exchanged files are encrypted.
no way to tell who is sharing what,” Tate says. “And users are adapting
so quickly because individuals or small groups can make important
advances in this technology, while the big companies are in a rush
to catch up.”
files are they, anyway?
advancing so quickly, knowing what you can legally obtain from the
Internet is incredibly confusing. Simpson offers the following tips
to avoid copyright infringement.
that almost everything on the Internet is copyright-protected even
if it doesn’t have a notice of some type,” she explains.
she says, include documents produced by the federal government and
works that fall in the public domain (typically those created before
Simpson says, “The current issues are like speeding through Denton
along I-35 when there are no police to stop you; does being able
to get away with it make it right?”