A&M Records v. Napster Inc. (2001)

In 2000, A&M Records and several other plaintiffs filed a civil case against Napster citing infringement of copyright laws. Napster, utilizing the latest MP3 digital music compression technology, allowed members to share music at no cost to the member. The founder, Shawn Fanning, established the Internet website for the purpose of providing “samples” of music from a variety of artists. When the recording industry filed charges against Napster, attorneys for the defendant argued that the company operated under the 1992 Audio Home Recording Act that allowed for the noncommercial reproduction of audio materials. Because Napster provided a free service allowing members to share music, the company argued that it complied with the existing copyright laws. Attorneys for A&M Records and various other plaintiffs within the music industry argued that Napster provided access to copyrighted music that individuals could download and then copy. The lower court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, and an appeal was filed with the Ninth District Court of Appeals, which upheld the lower court’s decision but returned the case to the lower court for the preparation of a revised injunction against Napster. According to the 2001 ruling, Napster must review its files and remove from its website all copyrighted music if the owner of the rights to that music objects to its use by Napster. Napster still retains the right to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, but given the conservative nature of the Court, it appears improbable that Napster attorneys will pursue that course of action.

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