Nine years ago today, a federal judge made a decision that changed music — changed the Internet — forever.
Judge Marilyn Patel, of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, granted an injunction filed by the record industry against Napster, forcing it to cease all operations.
That was the death of Napster, though two days later an appeals court granted the peer-to-peer file sharing service a stay of execution, which ended on February 12, 2001, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit announced a decision in A&M Records v. Napster, which upheld the RIAA’s injunction saying Napster was participating in copyright infringement.
Napster’s legal counsel tried to argue the VCR case, citing the Audio Home Recording Act and throwing out phrasaes like “fair use.”
The following article appeared on ReviewCenter.com on July 26, 2000.
Here Today … Gone Tomorrow — Is Napster Really Dead?
By Christina Warren, Review Center Staff
On Wednesday, a Federal Judge sided with the Recording Industry Association (RIAA) of America, and ordered a temporary injunction on the popular music program Napster. Napster allows its users to share music files in the form of MP3s without regard to copyright.
When the program gained astounding popularity, the recording industry and a group of vocal artists took exception and filed suit against the company, alleging that the trade of MP3s violated copyrights held by the artists and their recording companies.
“Napster is enjoined from copying or assisting or contributing to the copy or duplication of all copyrighted songs and musical compositions of which the plaintiffs hold rights,” US District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel ordered at a hearing in San Francisco federal court.
This ruling will no doubt shock the many users of Napster, as well as supporters who did not think the program would be shut down so quickly.
“When the infringing is of such a wholesale magnitude, the plaintiffs are entitled to enforce their copyrights,” Patel said. Patel ordered that the injunction go into effect at 12 a.m. PDT on July 28, 2000. Patel’s ruling in favor of the RIAA strongly suggests that the trial that will take place against Napster at the end of the year will also find in favor of the RIAA.
The creator and CEO of Napster held a live web broadcast at 7 p.m. PDT on Wednesday, addressing the courts ruling and the future of Napster. Essentially, the message was that while they adamantly opposed the ruling by Judge Patel in the hearing, they would comply with the court’s order. What does that mean?
This means that as of midnight on Friday morning, Napster will basically cease to function as we know it.
The question then becomes for Napster’s users, “What next?” Programs like Gnutella sprouted up as soon as the RIAA filed suit against Napster in December. These programs are even more dangerous to copyright holders, because they allow not only the transfer of music, but of video and text files as well.
It will be hard for anyone to stop people from sharing files. The MP3 format is hardly new, even if it has been making a lot of news with the advent of Napster and the subsequent trials. MP3 files were around before Napster, and they will continue to exist in the wake of this judgment.
Websites are already in the planning stages of trying to keep Napster alive. www.napigator.com has already started posting un-official Napster servers that can be used with the current Napster clients. This will allow Napster users to continue to use Napster after the Friday injunction, but without logging onto “official” servers. As these services become increasingly popular, it is going to be difficult to shut Napster down completely.
Users will have to await a final ruling when the case against Napster goes to trial this fall. The RIAA represents major acts like Metallica and Dr. Dre and represents companies such as Universal Music, BMG, Sony Music, Warner Music Group and EMI.
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