My daughter installed Napster--is this a bad thing?

I have been paying only about 15% of attention to the whole Napster thing, so when I saw that The Cat Who Walks Alone installed Napster on the big family computer last night, I couldn’t remember whether that was supposed to be a Good Thing or a Bad Thing.

They lost the lawsuit, right? So now they only have 20% of their former inventory, or something like that, and the only stuff they have is public domain songs? Or something? You can see how engaged I am by all this. :rolleyes:

The Better Half said, “She said she wanted a song.” He was a tiny bit annoyed that she hadn’t checked with him before installing things. It is his computer, after all.

But I don’t want her to get into trouble, legally. And the Better Half doesn’t like the idea of other people accessing, and possibly tying up, our hard drive. Is that in fact how they’re still running it, that people can check to see what songs you’ve got on your computer? She’s got a bunch of songs saved on the hard drive under My Music (another point of friction–those song files eat up a LOT of memory, and just when he thought he was gonna have this nice big 20 gig hard drive to fill up with his own stuff, now his teenage daughter’s filling it up with the soundtrack to Coyote Ugly.)

So if somebody comes into our computer and downloads something off our hard drive that’s actually copyrighted, are we the ones who get in trouble?

Things were simpler back when it was all on vinyl.


Technically, you could be brought to court and have to pay damages. As a practical matter, that’s unlikely to happen, of course.

Still, taking copyrighted material is a form of theft. I’m sure you taught your daughter she can’t just take something she wants just because it’s available. It’s the same with music – she is stealing and if she really likes the musicians she puts on her computer, she should respect their rights just as much as she would expect them to respect hers and not take her property without permission.

Yes, Napster works as a peer-to-peer system, meaning that files are shared on the client machines, and the Napster service just provides a way to search them, pretty much.
Technically, yes, the individuals would be the legally responsible parties. However, the RIAA (the 800lb gorilla you’re afraid of) has so far not attacked individual users, instead attacking the Napster company.

Correct again that Napster is now filtering many many songs that they have been notified are copyrighted, so it’s harder (not impossible) to find what you’re looking for.

The files shared on your computer are only the ones that you configure napster to share. If she has configured napster to look in “my music” to find the files to share, then any mp3s in there will be available. However, it’s entirely possible to set it to share only an empty directory, in which case no one will be able to download anything from you through Napster.

As for space concerns, mp3s run about a megabyte a minute. Which means that an entire cd is about 60 megs. Not much at all, on a 20 gig drive.

I leave any ethical conclusions up to you, but technically, I’d say you’re fine letting her do it.

I doubt that much will come of it, since lately Napster has been booting people off who have their file sharing set to anything higher than zero.

Most mainstream artists’ recordings are blocked, and even though they say they are checking for “musical imprints”, it seems that most of the file blocking is still done by title and artist name. That’s why you can still find songs from “airosmyth”, “bkstrt boiz”, and other creatively re-named groups and song titles.

The worst thing that would happen if your daughter uses Napster is she will get kicked off the server at some point, or will find it impossible at times to even sign on. If she wants to try and get songs, I wouldn’t worry about it. I don’t see it as being any different than borrowing a friend’s CD and making a copy.

Unless they’ve changed things since I was banned, people can only access your hard drive when you have the Napster program open. You also get to set the limit on how many people can download from you at any given time. They are also limited to mp3 files, so they won’t be able to access anything in your hard drive, just the mp3’s.

For all practical purposes, probably not. I was banned, and although they had my username, I actually had to name myself if I wanted to be sued. I declined the kind offer. They don’t have my real name, or my real address, or any real information about me at all. Just my username. It’s pretty hard to get into actual legal problems that way. Considering the millions of people who trade on Napster, Gnutella, on web sites, etc, it’s pretty hard to sue people on a case by case basis.

We solved this problem by putting everything onto CD. The CD burner was an investment, and a good one at that. We also kept all of our music in MP3 format, so we could fit approximately 150 songs per CD. We only have an 8 gig HD, so clearing the songs off of the HD was a big concern.

I’d say at this point of the file-sharing era, it would be almost impossible for legal ramifications to come about from you daughter using Napster or a similar service to download music for her own personal use. Will the millions upon millions of people trading files, pinning down one person is a waste of time for those interested in controlling copyrights. The most dangerous individuals are those who download/copy music and then distribute it for profit. I’m not saying that using a file-sharing program is completely legal; far from it. It’s just that at this stage of the game, the record companies and powers that be (save for our good friends, Metallica) are going after the companies providing the software, not the individual users themselves. Your daughter won’t find a whole lot left on Napster, I’m finding around 5-10% of what they had at their peak, but at least it’s only music (other services, such as Gnutella, allowing trading of all media, including pornography) and she might even explore a little musically as a result. I know I certainly have.

Tell her to bypass the Napster lockouts by downloading Napigator, and accessing the servers directly. Napigator runs the Napster shell so the mechanics of using it is the same, but no songs are blocked. Naturally, you wouldn’t want to do this, because it’s sooooo evil to use Napster, just ask ole Chuck.
And FTR, I haven’t used Napster in months. Dosen’t mean I don’t know the way around the blocks, tho.

What is evil is that BMG won’t pay the artists the millions they deserve from–money they won from the lawsuit. It seems that there is no lawsuit clause in many of the artists’ contracts.