Remember 1999? The Y2K hype, the rise of the “boy bands” and decline of the alternative rockers? In that same year, college student Shawn Fanning created the greatest addition to computers since the Internet: Napster, a free MP3 file sharing system.
In 1998, most major Internet search lists reported that MP3 was searched more often than any other word, including sex. MP3’s were very popular with college students, so much that some colleges banned students from having them. The biggest problem with MP3’s was it was so hard to find a wide variety of songs. People would have to search a number of sites just to find one song.
But that all changed after Shawn Fanning created Napster. Now it was easier to find your favorite songs and rare ones you may have forgotten.Soon there were copycat sites including Scour, Bear Share, Napigator. Napster was so popular (it had more hits than Yahoo and Hotmail,) that some users had an estimated 3,000 songs downloaded.
“I started to feel guilty,” says Yuba College student Michelle Teagarden, 22 of Browns Valley California. “I started to think that it was stealing from the artist,” Michelle continued. But she wasn’t the only one to think that. Lars Ullrich from the aging rock band Metallica, a band that once was the epitome of rebellion, felt that the artist should be compensated. In Mid 2000, Lars sued Napster for copyright infringement. He claimed that Napster was “pirating Metallica’s music without permission.”
Following Metallica’s lead, more artists came out against Napster. Soon Dr. Dre, the RIAA (Recording Industry Artist of America) and even the Grammys would sue Napster from 2000-2001. But the biggest argument for Napster was made by the artists themselves. The year 2000 saw many acts going platinum (selling one million records) or better, including Creed and Nsync, both of which sold over ten million records a piece. In fact, 2000 was one of the greatest selling years in music of all time.
2001 was a bad year for both Napster and the recording industry. Even after the backing of the Dave Matthews Band, Prince Chuck D. and others, the lawsuits finally caught up with Napster. Napster was forced to remove all copyrighted music from its site. Then they toyed with the idea to add a monthly membership fee to their site, which didn’t go over well with their users who already found a replacement: Morpheus.
The RIAA blamed Napster for the recording industry’s dissapointment in 2001. But the real reason was a combination of bad music and high CD prices. “I don’t think anyone should pay more than $12-13 for a CD,” says Jose Perez, 19 from Arbuckle, but he still feels the artist should be compensated for work.
So in the end who are the biggest losers, Napster or the Recording Industry? I believe the fans are the biggest losers. Face it, we had to put up with “Ice, Ice Baby,” The “Macarena” and the Spice Girls. I think the recording industry owes us for putting up with their crap. But instead, they raise CD prices and try to get rid of our MP3 sites. Fans have retaliated with the popular practice of burning CDs. “I think the only solution is for Napster to pay the artist something for their music,” says Yuba student Brett Griffith of Gridley.
Napster has made deals with a several bands and record labels, but only time will tell if this will save Napster and its counterparts.