The Napster Controversy

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Case Details:

Case Code : BECG007
Case Length : 07 Pages
Period : 2000
Pub. Date : 2002
Teaching Note : Available
Organization : Recording Industry Association of America
Industry : Media, Entertainment & Information
Countries : India

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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"If a new technology has a single present or potential legal use that is of social or commercial importance, then there cannot be a bar against the use of that technology."

- Napster sources, in 2000.

"Napster is not a technology. It is a business created to facilitate the anonymous theft of music."

- Sources at the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in 2000.

RIAA vs. Napster

In the summer of 1999, a website,, was launched in the US - and the global music industry was changed forever.

Napster was a system which enabled musicians and music fans to locate music available in the MP3, and WMA1 music formats.

The website made it possible for its users to freely share their music files through the Internet with other users all over the world. Napster maintained a database of music files held on the computer hard-drives of other registered Napster users. A user, looking for a particular song, sent his request to Napster.

The software then checked the availability of that song with this database, and if available, sent it to the user who requested the song. The service became extremely popular within a short span of time. The website attracted 1.6 million simultaneous users during the height of its popularity in February 2000...

Excerpts >>

1] MP3 is a computer software compression scheme that allows the digital music in compact discs to be shrunk to a tenth of its size. WMA indicates music files encoded in the Windows Media Player format, which takes half the storage space of MP3 files.


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