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Napster and Apple’s Ipod Essay

This paper deals with a through case study of the music industry in the face of change within the age of the Internet with the major focus on Napster and Apple’s ipod.

In 2000 Shawn Fanning founded Napster – a file sharing program where people could download music for free and access the songs they have downloaded at any hour of the day. However, in 2000, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and a number of the big business recording labels argued that “Napster was violating copyright laws, facilitating the illegal copying and distribution of copyrighted music.’’ (Hill, 1)

After Napster was in the lime light for allowing people to take advantage of free downloads, peer sharing technologies such as Kazaa were just coming into play where people were able to download music in a similar fashion. “In very short order after Napster’s service was shut down, a number of new file sharing services started to rapidly gain users.’’ (Hill, 11)

However there was one slight difference here, people were downloading through other people’s computers and not accessing the files via a central server and therefore it became difficult to stop this practice from taking place. “The music industry responded as it had with Napster, filing lawsuits in attempt to shut down the services for copyright violation. But in this case it was more difficult to prove infringement.’’ (Hill, 11)

Within the last 20 years since CD’s have been in vogue the music industry has changed. People have differing opinions regarding whether one is better than the other. It was Apple’s ipod and the Itunes online music service that revolutionized the music industry. These were the programs and applications that allowed you to purchase and listen to whatever you want but at the same time protect the artists that wrote and produced the music.

It is important to look at the growth in the music recording industry since these changes took place and to see what the results and changes have been. There was strong growth in the music recording industry in the 90’s. However, when the 2000’s hit global sales dropped by 5% and continued to drop for the next three years. Many people have been blaming this negative trend on Napster. In 2003 sales dropped to a low of $32 billion in 2003.

In the early 90’s the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) was concerned about consumers “burning’’ songs downloaded over the Internet onto CD’s.

This was such an easy process to do as you could download the files you wished to place on your CD from Napster and use a program by which you can copy CD’s. This concern was important to take into consideration because of the sheer amount of songs that were downloaded over the Internet for free and if people were downloading the songs they were not purchasing the CD’s from their favourite artists.

There is a large cost in promoting an artist and the use of copyrighted material makes this process even more expensive for the artist as not as many people will be purchasing the CD’s. People would be more likely to download the songs instead of purchasing them because it is cheap (free) and easy.

In the past, “the music industry has always been concerned about the potential for piracy of copyrighted material“. However, another trend that raised copyright infringement issues was MP3- compressed digital files that could be downloaded for free from the Internet. At the point where Napster was going through the courts certain lobbying groups were concerned with websites where people could download free MP3 files and in doing that listen to pirated music.

The RIAA tried to shut down Napster because of piracy and the laws that the company had broken. During this time the music industry also tried to develop technology that would protect digital audio recordings from piracy and counterfeiting.
The main problem in regard to Napster and the piracy issue is to do with the fact that Napster’s service was violating copyright, facilitating massive piracy of intellectual property and consequently stealing.

There were talks about a paid subscription service to be created by Napster in 2001 but nothing ended up coming into fruition and on September 2, 2002, Napster announced its liquidation.

It is clear to see why Napster has such an appeal to its audience given the fact that it was free and people could download any song that they wanted. In today’s environment people can still access peer-sharing websites however sometimes songs may be written down under a search engine listing and may even be a computer virus. Itunes is therefore giving users and artists the best of both worlds – consumers get to download the songs they want even if it is only one song off a particular album and the artist gets compensated for it.

All in all, it is clear to see the vast changes that have taken place over the last decade or more and the fact that significant changes will take place in the future. The growing popularity and vast information available on the Internet is going to change the way people purchase and listen to music and people need to be aware of this as the world changes everyday and nothing lasts forever.


Hill, Charles W, The music industry in the age of the Internet: from Napster to Apple’s Ipod.

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