Saturday, April 21, 2001 Vishaal 0 Comments

Computer music files are a form of recorded music, also referred to as “digital sheet music”. Both creation and use are protected and regulated by national and international copyright laws. Most users of music files, including the non-professional creators of such files, are sub-consciously aware of this fact. But since royalty collection on computer music or the Internet has not yet been organised, many computer music enthusiasts and computer musicians have paid little attention to the copyright issue because they have simply got away with it for now.
Napster is a free digital music distribution program that connects the user to a community of fellow members looking to trade songs.

Take the case of Internet website Napster is a free digital music distribution program that connects the user to a community of fellow members looking to trade songs. All the user has to do, is type in the title of the desired song and the program will provide a list of Napster members storing that song, as an MP3 file on their computer hard drive. At which point, the user can play the song on his computer, listen to it on an MP3 player, or “burn” it onto a blank recordable CD. It is the “easy” access and the prospect of “free” music that has made Napster popular with music freaks the world over. In the nine months since the program was launched, it has been downloaded 5 million times, making it the fastest growing program in the history of the Internet. In early April last year, the San Francisco rock band Metallica filed a suit against Napster, accusing them of music piracy.

Napster has upset most of the music industry; record companies are of the opinion that Napster’s popularity will have a direct impact on CD sales because if people download music as opposed to going out and buying it, record sales and artist royalties will be affected. Forrester, an Internet research group, predicts that free music services and file-swapping technologies like this would makeup a major part of the annual $3 billion in lost music sales expected globally by 2005. Surprisingly though, not all artists view Napster as enemy no.1; bands like Korn, Limp Bizkit, The Offspring and The Deftones believe trading of MP3 files will enhance sales rather than depress them.

Because Napster officials say the service does not directly provide the copyrighted music, only the means to get it, the company claims its service is legal. But in their first court hearing, the judge ruled that the site would be held liable even if it serves as a mere conduit between users and MP3 suppliers. On the 12th of this month a US federal appeals court ruled that Napster must stop dealing in music which is copyrighted. The court said that record companies must supply Napster with a list of all their copyrighted recordings, the swapping of which would be infringement. In the US now, commercial copyright violation involving more than 10 copies and value over $2500 has been made a felony.

Even an electronically transmitted performance triggers performance royalties and the recording’s mechanical duplication fees. The only copyright-free music files are those to which the recording artists make no claim to the production or the performance and the music is used in the public domain. Even most other music files you can now buy via the Net, are not licensed to be rebroadcast (e.g. to be used on a website). So unless you buy them, computer music files are illegal. Only a virtual artist lives from honour and fame alone, real humans need cash to pay their bills.