Nineteen year old Shawn Fanning dropped out of college in to create the computer program which now allows millions of users to download music directly from each other's computers. This technology has come to be known as peer-to-peer or P2P software and is now being used internally in a variety of businesses to share various information more efficiently.

noyesIn March, 2000 the Recording Industry of America filed suit against Napster for facilitating tributary copyright infringement; meaning it assists its users in pirating, or stealing, legally protected property.

U.S. District Judge Marilyn Patel granted an injunction to shut down Napster in July 2000 while the case was being tried. Soon after, the federal appeals judges issued a stay. In October 2000, the 9th circuit court of appeals heard testimony on the case but did not issue a decision.

Meanwhile, in September 2000 a federal judge in New York imposed the largest fine ever in a copyright case on Like the Napster case, this case is still under appeal.

How many students have made use of MP3 technology to download and trade music online? What are the benefits of sharing, storing and listening to music using this format? What are the drawbacks of sharing, storing and listening to music using this format?

Is using an online music site such as Napster trading music with friends or is it piracy - stealing copyrighted music?


In this lesson you will describe the history and development of digital music, evaluate the legality of digital music, and debate the legality of digital music.


mp3Examine information related to Napster and try to determine the answer to the central question: Is using an online music site such as Napster trading music with friends, or is it piracy - stealing copyrighted music?

1. Examine one of these cartoons . Describe what the cartoon looks like and explain the message of the cartoon to the class.

2. Read this interview with David Boies, attorney for Napster, and answer the following questions:

  1. Which side of the argument does David Boies defend?
  2. What are his main arguments?
  3. Do you think there is a difference between copying an audio cassette for a friend and trading music online?

3. Read "Arguments For and Against MP3 File-Sharing by Musicians and Music Listeners" and the CNN article "U.S. Lawmaker Wants to Legalize MP3 ". Answer the following questions:


  1. What arguments do the artists raise against Napster?
  2. Do you think the Music Owners' Listening Rights Act (H.R. 5225) will become law? Why or why not?
  3. If Boucher's bill becomes law, what will be the implications for both Napster and the music industry?

4. Read the CNN article"BMG takes digital-download plunge " and answer the following questions:


  1. Why is BMG posting new music on the web?
  2. How does the BMG structure and format differ from Napster? 

5. Read at least two more articles regarding the digital music debate from the list below:

6. Engage in a class debate using the following resolution: Resolved, that Napster's users are engaged in copyright infringement. Use this debate format .