The website is at the centre of a multimillion dollar lawsuit brought by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for alleged copyright infringement and trafficking in piracy. Their software, downloadable from their site for free, places vast music libraries at the disposal of any user running the programme. Essentially, they can go to another person who is Napster compatible and copy whichever MP3 stored material takes their fancy.
The RIAA launched their action against the company in December, just four months after the site was formed by teenage student Shawn Fanning.
The RIAA, akin to the BPI (British Phonographic Industry), claims to have the support of a number of high profile artists, including Puff Daddy, Kristen Hersh and The Black Crowes. They argues that Napster is robbing them of their wages as recording stars through lost copyright fees and royalties.
Chuck D, though, has seen nothing but good in the device and believes it can restore power to recording artists by bypassing record companies. In a posting on the Public Enemy website [url=]www.public-enemy.com he supports the freedom the device could afford the individual artist.
“I’ve relished in the fact that the majors are reeling from the impact of Napster,” he said. “If the record companies don’t share the marketplace with the advent of more than 100,000 start-up labels coming into the game, then they’re gonna really scream when millions of headz all get hip to the ‘NAPSTERBOOGIE’.”
“Most of the classic artists didn’t own the masters of their past works, me included, which was scary. What I hope came out of it was that the artists in the audience could represent in the new revolution and become participants in a larger global music biz, thus making their own rules for success”.
But what had formerly been a debate for or against the ethics of wholesale copying has now lurched into one concerning free speech. Several universities in the US have banned the downloading of the Napster software because campus networks were buckling under the volume of traffic the device was encouraging.
Students at Indiana University, Oregon State, Northwestern and University of California in San Diego have complained that the ban amounts to a civil rights abuse.
Through presently adjourned, a verdict on the RIAA case vs iNapster is expected on April 10.