Are Napster, Gnutella, et al Breaking the law?

It seems to me that the trading of music over the Internet without paying is breaking the law. Shouldn’t intellectual property be protected? These people have put a lot of time and effort into putting these songs together. Don’t we owe them fair compensation?

[sarcastic bastard]
If only we’d considered discussing this before!!
[/sarcastic bastard]

What does that mean? Has there been discussion? I looked over the last 10 days of threads and nothing. If you know of a thread, give it to me and I’ll get off the board. If you have something to contribute, please do so.

Easy, there. Not trying to drive you away or anything. I was just being a sarcastic bastard. If you do hang around for a while, you’ll realize that I rarely, if ever, have anything productive to contribute to anything.

And yes, if you expand the search engine option to “threads from anytime,” you’ll find about a zillion threads on the subject.

A zillion? I think that’s going a bit too far. Maybe a billion.

Copying copyrighted music is illegal.

It’s just impossible to enforce.

Providing a service which may be abused is not illegal.

Please remember, it is totally legal to write your own music to CD’s and back into MP3’s(or public domain music), copying someone else’s music is not. Because it is possible to use each of these services legally, each service can operate under the pretext that they are not intended for the sharing of copyrighted material.

Remember, all these programs are doing (especially Gnutella) are distributing files, not copying the music itself. The level to which they are responsible for the illegal actions of their users is to the same extent that your ISP is responsible for you using Napster etc. or e-mailing MP3’s.

You can still exchange files illegally without Napster, it just makes it all a hell of a lot more convienent.

I am using Napster (for the most part) to download MP3s of music that I already I have on LP. It is a pain to try to convert my LPs to CD or MP3, so I have been collecting a lot of this music via Napster. It’s been great. I don’t believe this is illegal, since I have already paid for the album in question - just in LP form. But they got their money from me already.

I do sometimes download tracks from CDs that I am interested in buying. I listen to a bit of the album (via a Napster download) and then decide I want to buy the CD. This practice may be technically illegal, but the spirit of it certainly should be acceptable.

Bottom line, I don’t like settling for MP3s when there is a CD out there. I will buy the CD, every time, if I like the music. I want to have that CD with its jewel case in my hot little hand. I don’t think I am doing anything so terrible.

I do part of what yosemitebabe does: preview records.

Especially with an artist that I really like one song but haven’t heard anything else by them. I basically just check them out.

I download a bunch of stuff but I do buy A LOT of CDs; Napster just makes it easier to preview and listen to while I’m at work instead of carting around a big pile.

Plus, for stuff that’s out of print or rare, its an incredible resource. Do you know how hard it is to find Andrews Sisters recordings, other than ones that have the same six songs on them? I pulled up some stuff on them yesterday and couldn’t believe how many songs of theirs that were available that I hadn’t heard before. It was great!

If used correctly (with my rose-colored glasses on), it could be a way to pass along rare and/or out-of-print releases by artists (like the Andrews Sisters) whose heyday was way before CD and the like, ensuring them a larger spot in our music history and current scene.

Just see what Gnutella itself has to say:

While I’m sure that there are lots of people like BunnyGirl who use Napster to preview music for CD’s they intend to buy, I’m willing to bet that there are twice as many people who (like me and most of the other people I know in my age group), just download the MP3’s and burn them onto CD’s without paying anything to the artists or producers.

    As threemae says, though, as long as there's a possible legitimate use, the gov't can't shut Napster down. Even if they did, other services without central servers (and thus impossible to shut down) would take its place. It'll be interesting to see how the music industry adapts.

It seems to me that the legitimate uses do not outweigh the illegitimate ones. We don’t let people steal cars for a day to try 'em out and if you ask at most music stores, they will let you preview a disc.
If those damn hackers weren’t so good, a useable system whereby MP3s would have a timed lifespan after which they would not work could be put into place. I don’t see an uncrackable version ever coming out, though.
Also, unlike tape trading or VHS recording, you can get a PERFECT copy of something and create an infinite number of equally perfect copies. There is little incentive to buy a hardcopy from a legitimate source if there is no improvement in quality.
As I said, there are legitimate reasons for Napster to exist, but the potential dangers, once a generation grows up thinking all music should be free and far more people are on-line, are vast.

Here is the problem. When you look at who is really hurt by napster… its generally not the artist. The artist dont make their money off the cd sales, there are exceptions for the more powerful artist out there. Most of that money goes to the recording companies. Now, copying the copyrighted material is illegal. However, so is the price fixing the recording industry practices, and i believe has even admitted to. Which is cared out at an insanely high markup rate as it takes at most pennies to stamp cds and the recording cost are fixed (meaning it cost the same to record for the cds as it does for the tapes as it does for the lps… both of the later being more expensive to manufacture than cds). Now, two wrongs dont make a right… but neither will removing only one of these wrongs make things “more right”. Also, most napster users continue to buy cds, using napster to weed out the one song cds that have been popping out more and more lately or to collect old songs and make collections that one would be hard pressed to do by buying cds.

Is copying a tape or CD into an MP3 format different than recording a song off of the radio and copying that song and giving to a friend, and is that any different than taping a movie on HBO copying that tape, and giving to a friend…? Has this activity always been illegal? Or do those who stand to profit from the sale (or rental) of such material want us to believe it’s illegal?

What about duping a CD with a burner for a friend?

Is it now different because the internet has made sharing incredibly convenient?

Or does the illegality come into play when someone tries to sell or make a profit from copywrited material? The FBI warning on video tapes is to warn about selling admission to see the movie, but says nothing about the act of duping a tape (or does it?).

One day, my father (who owns both the computers at our house and is always looking for cool new stuff for them) hears about how it’s possible to download songs. He’s always wanted to have a collection of his favorite songs, most of which are hard to find (not surprising, since he’s pretty much stopped listening to anything new since 1969), and manages to find a bunch of song search engines. Of them, one’s way too limited…may have been, I don’t remember…one turns up nothing but bad files, and the rest don’t work. Napster, however, does, and within days he’s happily downloading away. I don’t remember him ever questioning the morality of this.

I use the service myself to download my favorite songs from all eras, many of which are impossible to get anywhere else (hey, you try finding Soul Sister on I figure that since these are songs that other people already bought and paid for, it’s not stealing, it’s sharing…same thing music owners have been doing for ages, just on a larger scale. In any event, I see no reason to stop.

Other members of our extended family often come to our house, and they usually download a few songs for themselves every time. If they ever agonized over the legality of what they were doing, I sure as hell never saw it.

And yes, my father has managed to burn a few CDs for said family members (nearly all of whom are children, BTW). However, they have no intention of selling the music, so they probably can’t get into trouble for piracy. I mean, c’mon, he made these compilations for their enjoyment, why the hell would they want to sell them?

Why do we use Napster? Well, because it’s fast and convenient, it allows us to get songs we wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else (so we wouldn’t be paying for them anyway), as of now it isn’t completely 100% definiltey illegal, and we can’t get busted for it. Plus it’s the only surefire way to avoid getting ripped off at the store.

I’m sorry, folks, but that’s the way America works. We look out for number one, and we stop doing so if it can get us into trouble. Period. Any argument for or against Napster that does not address this crucial, relevant fact is folly.

“But Darrell, by your badly flawed logic murder is all right if you don’t get caught!” Well, there’s another thing: Most people are against cold-blooded murder and will gladly report such offenders to the police. With Napster, on the other hand, people are gladly sharing music with each other, and the loudest objections are coming from the music industry itself (whose excesses I won’t rehash here; they’re well-chronicled) and the rich megastars, neither of whom insipre a lot of sympathy from the hoi polli. Is someone within Napster going to blow the whistle? Not likely, so good luck enforcing any kind of ban (and don’t even bother with Gnutella). That’s how a free society works, record execs…adapt or die.

DKW wrote:

This is the way I feel about it. I do not approve of people downloading MP3s of entire albums of music that is easily available in record stores, as an alternative to buying the actual CD. That seems like cheating. However, that’s not what I do, and I am not sure that the vast majority of people do.

I am a soundtrack geek (we are everywhere…mwhahaha!) and we are scary, obsessive collectors. We want the actual CD in our collection - a MP3 isn’t going to hack it for us, unless that’s our only option. MP3s are great, however, for music that is out-of-print, or not available anywhere. I used to have a soundtrack MP3 website (I got rid of it because it was too expensive.) I got lots of requests from people overseas for obscure film music that they absolutely could not get in their country. I had no problem sharing my MP3s with them.

Another thing that I do is share and look for certain types of “bootleg” music. I don’t think the composer cares, I really don’t. He wrote the music for the film, I am sure he was proud of his work, but for whatever reason, the record label didn’t release a CD. So some of us scary, obsessive collectors find “bootlegs” so we can appreciate some of these never-published scores. It’s the only way we’re going to hear some of this music. (For instance, did you know that there was a rejected score for the film “Two Days in the Valley”, by “L.A. Confidential” composer Jerry Goldsmith?) NO ONE made a commercial CD of it, no one got to hear what a great job Goldsmith did with the score, because it was not used in the final cut. But it’s a great score, and the only way anyone is going to hear it is (primarily) through Napster. I don’t have a problem with this, and I doubt Jerry Goldsmith is really worried about it either. (I could be wrong - but I think these film composers know how geeky their fans are. I doubt they mind that we are able to hear some of their more obscure works, as long as no real financial harm is done to the composer, or the label.)

I don’t know about this new-fangled Napster business, but what harm can yummy hazelnut spread be doing? Breaking the law? Hardly.

::wanders off to fill some crepes with Nutella::

I know I would have never bought a cd before downloading music, but i might after. More people interested in more music can only be a good thing for the musicians.

The argument that the music industry is harmed by Napster collapsed completely when Radiohead distibuted free mp3s of their lastest CD before it went to stores, and their CD debuted in the charts at #1 when it reached the stores. It is generally aknowledged that it wouldn’t have happen without the mp3s they distributed.

There are people out there using Napster for legal (and ethical purposes). Several people in this thread for example. Me for example.

However, Napster, Gnutella and other P2P systems were designed for and are used almost exclusively for stealing.

Do the majority of people pay for something they can get for free? Ask Stephen King.

The notion that it’s only a distribution channel is irrelevant. Selling stolen merchandise is (and should be) illegal. The fact that the seller didn’t steal it himself it is beside the point.

Bill H., you are wrong in saying that the merchandise is stolen. Congress passed a bill that gives consumers the right to make mp3 files of songs that they bought. The vast majority of songs in Napster were originally CDs bought by a user. I bought 3 CD’s that are converted into mp3 files accesible by Napster.