Did Napster violate US copyright laws

The children of Napster

We're now on a file sharing program called Emule. There are many others, e.g. Bearshare Emule is good for less well-known things, including movies. Bearshare is good for local bands. But I don't have an overview here.

2.7 million people are logged into the server where I am logged in. They are in some cellar, I can fall back on them. Then there are maybe 200,000 files on the small ones.


The idea is as old as the internet itself. But it wasn't until the year 2000 that it was noticed. The American student Shawn Fanning, nicknamed "Napster" because of his many naps, invented a system that made it very easy to swap pieces of music, anonymously worldwide. Anyone who had songs, for example, copied them from CD or vinyl into a folder on their computer hard drive at home, went online and registered this folder with Napster. With that he released his pieces for everyone who looked for them.

In the age of digitization, copying doesn't hurt anyone. The copy is always as good as the original. Within a few months, Napster was listing hundreds of thousands of pieces of music that had been copied back and forth between hundreds of thousands of PCs around the world. The ingenious idea of ​​Napster got around in no time at all. Suddenly the interns were playing their hip hop to the secretaries and the mothers were playing their Janis Joplin to their children. The hard drives connected to Napster filled with music, from Brahms to Coltrane, from the Sex Pistols to Abba. Free! Exchange just, money-free movement of goods.

Napster slept through the music industry. Then she finally woke up, rubbed her eyes and thought, that doesn't exist! Silently she asked herself: But this is an elegant music distributor, why didn't we think of it ourselves? She was sure people will keep buying CDs because Napster's music is compressed, so it is of inferior quality; in addition, it is not in a nice case for 20 or 30 euros.

But then - for many reasons - CD sales collapsed worldwide; the music industry thought the rug was being pulled from under its feet. She appointed the most expensive lawyers through her powerful advocacy group in the USA and within a few months executed the little student Shawn "Napster" Fanning in court. Today he is no longer available to anyone. Allegedly he programs a software against file sharing. The "Napster" brand changed hands one after the other. The current owners use the old logo with the cat and headphones on their heads to sell t-shirts and music, the song for one euro, cheaper with a subscription.

But of course such a good idea doesn't die. After the end of Napster, other file sharing sites shot up, namely:

The children of Napster

and two anonymous helpers who take us on a short hike through the file sharing sites for the next half hour.

I make differences there. I would buy the CD from a lesser known band like Blumfeld. Even if I download a Blumfeld song, I still buy the CD because I want to support the band, because I know that it is difficult for small bands in Germany to survive. But I don't think it's necessary for me to buy a CD from Madonna or Robbie Williams. They have enough money.

"So according to the copyright law it is the case that copies of so-called audiovisual works - and this basically includes music, audio and, visually, film - can be made for so-called private use by the consumer. That is, someone Anyone who has acquired a work, i.e. a piece of music or a film, on a CD or DVD, for example, is allowed to make a copy of this work for private use Someone buys a record, has a cassette recorder in the car and transfers this record to an audio cassette so that it can also be heard in the car. He can also pass something on from these copies to his friends and acquaintances. But it is important that he Under no circumstances may this be made against payment, as the law says. This means that the sale of copies is not permitted. Giving away is permitted. "

Ronald Schäfer, Managing Director of the Society for the Prosecution of Copyright Infringements GVU in Hamburg.

So much for the legal situation from the time of records and cassettes.

If the music industry worked on itself and considered whether their system would still work that way and the CDs got cheaper, then I think a lot more CDs would be bought. Because such an original CD is always more beautiful than a burnt one.

"In networks where a large number of users participate, one must assume that this close relationship does not exist and that the provision of the copyright law, which regulates private copying, is fundamentally inapplicable. It follows that on the Internet Both the upload, i.e. the making available of works, as well as the download, the downloading violates copyright law, i.e. is illegal. "

... with the effect that a number of lawyers in the USA, Europe and Germany have set out to write to people who, like the two of them at our little download party, swap music and films. To write down means: to warn, with astronomical sums. Because file-sharing sites seem anonymous - everyone on the Internet, including those participating in file-sharing sites, surfs with an identifier. This number is known to the company that provides the Internet access, such as Arcor, 1 & 1 or Telekom. And when a prosecutor asks for it, that number has to be revealed. This is a lucrative business for the warning lawyers. However, the last wave of warnings in Germany was so massive that the courts waved it off and wanted a trivial clause: If you only have a few songs in your swap folder, you shouldn't have any problems.

The music industry itself has become more cautious because it does not want to use martial measures to deter small customers from buying their music properly. The film industry has put itself in the nettles with film spots that label every moviegoer as a potential criminal who threatens five years in jail if he films the film with his camcorder, burns it on DVD and sells it or bartered it.

Madonna's song has already been downloaded; the album needs a little more. [Music Madonna]. 192 kilobits are now displayed, which is quite a lot for an mp3. However, the song doesn't sound good. You can hear artifacts from the compression. I don't know where they come from. Here one would say: Yes, it is nice to play on the computer, but it does not have the quality of the CD you bought.

"Well, I know people who claim that they repeatedly had the effect of stumbling upon music that they would never have listened to if it couldn't be downloaded efficiently and for free from the Internet. On the other hand, I have Acquaintances, to whom I somehow recommend a CD, and the reaction to it is: Yes, great, I'll download it right away! There is no longer any thought that they might still be available in the store. The biggest example is this weird, once incredibly successful mp3.com. There were downloads like crazy. But real stars still didn't emerge from it. So people thought it was good when it was free. But then to take the step to really buy the CDs in larger quantities - you seem to prefer to buy your normal chart music. Amazing, actually. "

Martin Steinebach from the Fraunhofer Institute IPSI in Darmstadt. Martin Steinebach is an expert in file sharing, copy protection and digital watermarks.

At the end of the 1990s, the music portal mp3.com, of which Martin Steinebach speaks, made forure to offer music in mp3 (i.e. data-reduced) format for free download. It wasn't a swap exchange! It was teeming with unknown bands using mp3.com as their advertising platform. When mp3.com introduced a payment service for commercial songs, the small San Diego company went down the drain. Today it is one of the many American music download portals.

Mp3.com got its name from a process developed in Erlangen with which digitized sounds, such as those from CD, can be compressed in such a way that, firstly, it is not noticeable and, secondly, the data can be easily transmitted over the Internet. A song that is 40 megabytes in size on an audio CD typically shrinks to a tenth due to compression and is then only 4 megabytes in size. mp3 is an abbreviation of MPEG 1 Layer 3, where MPEG is the international standardization authority for picture and sound.

mp3.com is a golden name for a website, similar to mp3.de, which had several owners and is now owned by a video editing company in Cologne. Like mp3.com, mp3.de is a site where you can buy music online, but it has nothing to do with mp3.com. Robert Mendez, who runs the music portal, attaches great importance to the fact that mp3.de is something very special, because in addition to the paid area it also offers tens of thousands of free songs whose authors are valued and cared for.

"The moment I download something for free from an exchange platform, I cheat the artist. At that moment, the artist has nothing at all from his work, while I am happy about the music: great song, great voice. I have a lot Bought CDs, simply because I want to reward the bands and artists. "

Actually the argument goes like this that you reward the record company and the artists are exploited !?

"Sure, in the past it was a tightrope walk for the artist not to crash with a record company. But then the market has cleared up a bit. The situation is shifting, the whole market is changing."

Robert Mendez, head of the music platform mp3.de.

"For example, is Madonna / So Sorry with you? - I don't know now. Of course we want Madonna. In the left column you can see the albums that are available, and below that the singles. Then you can go through accordingly."

When it comes to music payment services, only one person is earning outstanding money at the moment, namely their pioneer: Apple. The computer manufacturer managed to offer the music catalogs of the largest record companies on the Internet in April 2003 for one dollar per song, completely legally. The price was also attractive for many participants in swap exchanges: you had the piece immediately and remained pretty legal.

This strategy is a prime example of good marketing. If you buy a song in Apple's iTunes Musicstore, you need iTunes, a computer program from Apple. To take music with you on the go, Apple developed the iPod. Although it was significantly more expensive than all other mp3 players on the market, it was the only one to get along with iTunes and also looked so good that it soon became a status symbol to own an iPod and not just any mp3 player. To feed the iPod with hundreds or thousands of songs, users could transfer their CD collection or simply go shopping in the iTunes Music Store.
So much music has been sold here in recent years that the German "Phonographic Industry", as it is called, thought it was dreaming. And because of sheer dreams, did she not manage to conclude a good deal with the big record companies in this country in time, as Apple did in the USA. Nor is she blessed with exceptional marketing skills. The German download portals are more or less scrambling around today, whether they are called Musicload or mp3.de.

"There is a special problem for music shops on the Internet, namely payment. The moment I want to pay something on the Internet, a company steps in and says: There is a debt collection behind it, a risk as to whether the customer really is paid, there's a risk behind it, and that costs money. And that's pretty expensive! That's why we have prices for individual tracks around 1.99 euros, but if you break a certain price threshold, the price drops to 1.49 euros All music shops certainly have problems with these too high prices. Especially with individual tracks, there is hardly anything to be gained where one could say that there is still a cent in the wallet. "

I don't remember exactly, but once I downloaded a film and it turned out that it was half German, but then went on to Spanish. It can happen that the language changes; I couldn't do anything with the film. I didn't rent the film from the video store because it wasn't there yet. And I didn't see it in the cinema because I didn't find it interesting enough. If these download platforms didn't exist, I wouldn't watch the film at all.

Here we see the first 19 seconds of Scary Movie. That's not that much yet, but you can already see that it looks like Scary Movie, which we are downloading here.


In file sharing networks, the music is compressed into mp3 format so that it can be transmitted quickly over the Internet, but it is free. Too free for the music industry. It forces the music stores on the Internet to provide every song with a digital key. The key is called "Digital Rights Management" or DRM.

"Every rights holder who demands a DRM also sets other limits. For the customer of music files this is a chaos that can hardly be overlooked. We said: As stupid as it is, we take the lowest common denominator just to simplify this thing In this way, of course, we also set the strictest limits. Accordingly, it is the case with us that all WMA files can be copied 5 times, can be heard infinitely often and can be burned 5 times. "

"Especially the rights holders, the larger labels, insist on the use of digital rights management, especially in times of online downloads, simply because it is the technology that makes it possible to prevent people who shy away from technical efforts from doing so in any way a way to do something with the music that the rights holder does not approve. I say consciously, only the people who shy away from technical measures. Because there are enough mechanisms with which you can handle this very efficiently. But you have to have the knowledge and the Willingness and the time to get used to it.

On the one hand, DRM naturally always has the aura of distrust. If I only give someone something encrypted, if I only put restrictions on the whole thing and say: "Since I assume that you will do something with the audio data, then I have a few mechanisms in here that will prevent you from doing so. But I'm still magnanimous and give you the opportunity to do one or two things with it. But don't get the idea of ​​going beyond your limits! " Of course, this is something that can have negative consequences when dealing with customers, because many then say: Well, well, if my provider doesn't trust me, then I either go to another provider who is more accommodating, or if so I know from the start that I can't do what I want with the audio data, then I'll get it for free from the Internet, because that's where I usually find it. One cannot give in to the illusion that DRM will prevent the data from appearing on the network at some point. "

That is why Martin Steinebach is traveling through Germany and promoting an alternative to the restrictive digital rights management encryption - namely a watermark, which is always there but is not a technical limitation.

"The more degrees of freedom, the greater the inaccuracies in the representation of a medium, the easier it is to hide watermarks. Written text has few degrees of freedom; it is very difficult to embed watermarks. An audio recording can be imagined as always a little There is background noise, and quite a lot can be hidden in the noise. "

In the TYPE category of my search mask there are programs, audio, documents, books and pictures that are licensed and that cannot be easily obtained elsewhere.

"You can of course take legal action against everyone who uses these file sharing sites. I can certainly see who is downloading something from the file sharing site; or at least I can see which IP address is currently downloading data. There is the procedure that an attempt is made to identify the real people via the service provider using the IP address and then to call them accountable, which is a time-consuming process.

Watermarks are actually the only mechanism that allows me to identify the origins of illegal copies without worrying about the IP addresses and networks, namely when I run an online shop, I always hear audio files from a customer downloads, individually mark them, and when the audio files then turn up in a swap exchange, I can read the watermark again, and the watermark tells me which customer originally downloaded this audio file. Then I can approach the customer and try to find out how this audio file got into this exchange. "

Watermarks can also be incorporated into the soundtracks of digitized films. The film distributor can then see at any time who has bought which film.

I once downloaded the last King Kong movie and then downloaded Best of Gina Wild instead. That annoyed me quite a bit because it couldn't be seen. I thought it was the movie, the file was the right size too.

When searching for Henning Mankell, the crime writer, we are offered audio books, i.e. audio, in the list, but also pdf files, where the book is included in printed form, also in German. This is called e.g. "Ebook German - Mankell, Henning. The secret of fire" or "The man on the beach"


More and more Internet users have surf packages; They do not pay for their Internet access by the hour or by the amount of data transferred, but a flat rate. With this convenience, it doesn't matter financially to download 500 megabytes for a film instead of one megabyte for a song. It just takes longer.

He has now downloaded 50 of the 700 megabytes the movie is supposed to be.

Ronald Schäfer represents the film industry. His society for the prosecution of copyright infringements GVU came into the headlines last year, among other things, because it contributed to the exposure of pirated rings, some of which were also doing their business on the Internet. The aim of the investigation was, among other things, the operators of the site ftp-welt.de, where you could pay for and download films that had often not even appeared in theaters in this country. Some were, as the scene says, already "muxxted", that is, they had German dubbing tracks. The GVU delivered the people of the Kripo to the knife. Earlier this year the company produced less heroic headlines:

To get information about creators and distributors of pirated copies, the Society for the Prosecution of Copyright Infringements (GVU) paid informants from the scene.

... wrote the computer magazine c’t.

On Tuesday, January 24th, investigators from the State Criminal Police Office in Baden-Württemberg also searched the GVU's Hamburg offices and confiscated files as part of a major raid against pirates.


Why, according to Ronald Schäfer, is not exactly understood. The GVU replied to allegations of exaggerating her job as deputy sheriff. In any case, the case gave the impression that there was no longer such a sharp distinction to be made between detectives and the actual swamp. Whatever: Roland Schäfer certainly knows "the scene":

"Within these release groups, i.e. the groups that ultimately channel the products into these channels, there is an old school and a new school. The old school takes the view: Everything from the scene for the scene. That is, for which is any form of earning money associated with it, against the code of honor. The old school probably dates from the beginning of the 80s, the new school from the 90s. The new schools are then the ones who say: We don't limit that to our friends, on our scene, but we are also quite ready to A) make it freely accessible and B) earn money with it. Average age should be around 25. There is a dispute within the scene between the old school and of the New School. The high polluters are of course the supporters of the New School. "

This is a band from Hamburg [Musik Blumfeld]. The quality is better than Madonna's earlier.

Matthew Neco of Streamcast Networks, maker of the Morpheus file sharing program.

The Internet, says Matt Neco, was created so that information can flow freely without anyone being able to interrupt that free flow. As it happened now, the content of the entertainment industry has become digitizable and can therefore also be freely transmitted over the Internet. That is a side effect of the technical development. And he adds that he is by no means of the opinion that films and music pieces to which authors and producers have rights should be broadcast free of charge. But what does that matter to him, he only offers the tool, the tool.

Napster started from scratch in June 1999 and had twenty million registered users by the time it was forced to end in July 2001. The little idea of ​​the student Shawn "Napster" Fanning was one of the really big ideas in the history of the Internet. Today file sharing networks have become better and smarter, they no longer collect all data centrally, but work decentrally, like switching centers. Despite several legal proceedings against the operators and waves of warnings against the users, new file sharing sites keep springing up, and the number of members is at least not decreasing.

Without file sharing, the music and film industries would never have woken up from their self-satisfied sleep. Without Napster there would be no such discussion about the power of capital, the rights of artists and the freedom of information.

Now the Madonna album has arrived. Confessions on a dance floor with 12 songs. Let's listen to it.