Editorial Board 2000-2001
Napster will survive
Napster will survive
The recent court ruling against Napster has only served to delay the inevitable.
If the record executives responsible for the lawsuit think the decision made in their favour will stop music from being distributed on the Internet for free, then they are sadly mistaken.
While the popular Napster software may have been shut down, there are dozens of similar programs ready to replace it. And because of the infinite size of the Internet, it is impossible to wipe them all out. Napster was accessible to anyone with a home computer and the ability to click on an icon. That is what made it such a threat to record companies. Any Internet user, anywhere on the planet could download any song ever recorded, and store it on their home computer, to be played at their own convenience.
The reason why Napster was shut down is because the record companies, who have a great deal of money have invested in the CDs they generate a profit from, believed that it violated copyrighting laws. The question raised then is whether or not current copyrighting laws are still effective in light of the changes that are occurring due to the advances being made in technology.
First there was the photocopier, the Video Cassette Recorder, and now Napster. Each has challenged our understanding of copyright laws, and in the past have redefined them. When each of the aforementioned technologies were developed they were all challenged in the courts, and all except Napster have survived. Is it right then to dismiss Napster so easily, or do copyright laws need to be redefined?
Who actually suffers from the use of the program? Are artists losing out on previous royalties or does it allow them to distribute their material more readily? According to Canadian record companies, they have lost over $84 million dollars last year because of illegally downloaded songs on programs like Napster. Is it fair though to assume that Napster is the only variable responsible for the decline in profits? How does this compare to the United States where record sales have actually gone up.
It is also important to consider whether or not the antiquated laws governing copyrighting are even effective when you consider the scope of the Internet. How could our government possibly regulate how the Internet is used? Better yet, do they have any right?
Whether or not the free distribution of mp3's on the Internet are made illegal, there isn't any law that is going to stop them. The courts' decision to shut Napster down has only served to make more people aware of its possibilities, and therefore only escalated the problem.
We cannot control the development of technology, but we can change laws, and it's time the laws change.