The second half of the 20th century witnessed numerous technological innovations that completely transformed the way people in the society perceived life. In this regard, there are different issues that for a long period of time had proved to be a challenge in the society that were easily handled by the introduction of technology. Among the technological innovations that completely transformed the lives of people in all sectors of life is the internet. Following this point, this research paper will analyze the rise and fall of Napster, a technological innovation that simplified the way people shared music that was in MP3 format over the internet.
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To begin with, Napster was an internet service that allowed its clients to share files, mostly in MP3 forms. It was created by Boston’s Northeastern University student named Shawn Fanning. The internet service came into operation in June 1999 and operated until July 2001. In reference to Meyer (2008), Napster was a program that was meant to allow students at Northeastern University to share music files among themselves, only for this program to develop extensively and attract clients from across the globe.
The blossoming of Napster as an internet file sharing service raised a lot of concerns in the music industry. The music industry was amazed at how music fans across the world were able to access their favorite hits songs without having to pay to them royalties. In line with, this industry examined the trends at Napster and filed cases against it that would later see the end of the ‘Napster boom’. In this regard, different music companies and artists filed complaints arguing that Napster infringed their music copyrights since it had created an avenue whereby people were able to gain access to their music without having to pay anything (Mayer 2008).
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There are various issues that enabled Napster to flourish as a company and software. In reference to Hardin (2007), the information age led to the development of personal computers that was then followed by the introduction of the internet for home usage (8). In line with this, the internet became a luxury that was highly esteemed by people in the society. The demand to consume technology was also very high. The consumers really needed technological breakthroughs that would enable them to streamline the business and personal lives.
It was also found that Napster followed a four-stage path in its development to the point of flourishing. First, there is the creative stage. According to Hardin (2007), the need to share music files over the internet led to the creation of the Napster program that would allow people to search for music files on other people’s personal computers and download and save them on their own computers (9). In this regard therefore, the availability of this idea resulted to a creation of a file sharing program. The second stage that is cited by Hardin (2007) is innovation (9). In this stage, the idea that is developed conflicts with the existing idea and which leads to the adoption of the new idea or rather invention. Therefore, Napster’s idea took over since it had been designed to deal with the problems that consumers had.
The third stage comprise of the growth stage under which Napster was able to grow not only within the Northeastern University but world. Finally, Napster had to go through the final stage which is maturation (Hardin 9). This was a critical stage for Napster as it faced a lot of challenges from the music industry due to copyright issues. As a result, it had to renovate itself into a different product that faced little challenges and resistance from the general society. Apart from going through these stages of development, one of the greatest issues that have remained as headlines in many media products and that completely transformed the face of Napster is the issue of music copyright and piracy. The ability to copy and distribute without restriction the MP3s files that were shared on Napster aroused the anger of the Music industry leading to a file of different cases.
It was found out that the Recording Industry Association of America sued Napster for creating an opportunity that enabled consumers to directly violate copyright laws for financial benefits. Additionally, the rock band named Mettalica also filed a case against Napster arguing that it was not getting royals from its music due to the ability of the customers to find their music online through Napster. According to Mayer (2008), the overwhelming pressure from the legal system finally led to the collapse of Napster as it was forced to pay large sums of money to the complainants for violating copyrights rules and regulations through its software. The copyright holders accepted $26 million as a way of settling with Napster for illegal use of music and a further $10 million to cover imminent royalty agreements (Mayer 2008).
In summation, whereas Napster enjoyed a few moments of flourishing, it was not able to deal effectively with the last stage of development as the impending laws and regulations could not allow it to pass this stage without having a complete restructuring. In line with this, Napster introduced stringent measures that required its customer to pay a certain amount of money before they could be able to download any music file. Finally, Napster finally sold its assets to Roxio after declaring its bankruptcy in 2002. This was after the initial sale of Napster to a Germany company Bertelsmann AG had been blocked.
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