Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Music in Cyberspace

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Music in Cyberspace

Article excerpt

Introduction

Prior to the 1990s, the Internet was relatively restriction-free and censorship-free because the impact of an insignificant number of users did not warrant serious concern for regulation in cyberspace. At that time, cyberspace provided a dimension of escapism from the real world, where Internet users were able to elude legal accountability for certain activities or behaviors conducted in the virtual world. As the number of Internet users and their activities increased, and as these users became more reliant on this online medium, the issue of regulating for a healthy Internet environment became a pressing concern for government and policy makers in information economies. Because the conduct of some Internet users began to show that a libertarian's use of cyberspace could generate consequences that hurt or contradicted life in the physical world, the Internet began to acquire a legal dimension with compliance requirements. In other words, there were negative externalities and misdemeanors being created and committed through the Internet that warranted a conscientious regulatory stance in cyberspace (Fong, 2003).

The music scene in cyberspace is an example of how a legal framework has been developed to curb online copyright infringement. The music companies themselves did not make their product freely accessible on the Internet, but it was their customers that upload their music into cyberspace and giving others the means to download it. The emergence, in the mid-1990's, of online music websites and software programs such as MP3 technology to compress and download music, have delivered considerable copyright threat to the music industry. This threat has been further exacerbated by the remarkable development of technological innovations, such as highspeed broadband Internet connection and affordable CD burners, which are capable of delivering fast download and reasonably good audio and visual quality. This emerging information technology has made reproducing and sharing the work of others extremely easy, and has caused great concern for the music industry. This paper traces the evolution of the digital music scene in cyberspace and serves as preliminary groundwork for detailed research and discussion in the area.

Digital Music in Cyberspace

The case of Napster was a watershed in spelling the beginning of an end to free copyrighted music exchange and download in cyberspace. Napster was a software program that allowed Internet users to download free copies of music through the Internet. Shawn Fanning created the program in 1999, so that he could share music with a friend on campus via the Internet, and it enabled users to share and transfer songs located in their individual computers' hard drives. This peer-to-peer networking feature allowed individual computers to communicate directly over the Internet, only engaging the Napster site for the index of songs to facilitate tracing and downloading of music. This method of sharing songs became popular on college campuses where many of the copyrighted songs were available for effortless download. The Napster program was easily available from the Internet and its popularity was fueled by the fact that users could download music for free through the Internet. The problem was that most of the music was protected by copyright and Napster users were sharing and exchanging it without paying. The use of this software program began to extend from campuses into households and other entertainment territorities. In addition, other similar file-sharing programs such as Gnutella and Freenet, and on-line music websites began to spring up following the popularity of Napster. The widespread exchanging and downloading of copyrighted music for free among Internet users caused grave concern in the music industry because of falling sales (Higgins, 2002). The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) asserted that Napster facilitated the growth of a black market for illegal copies of digital music ("Napster closure threat", 2000) and in 1999 sued the operator for copyright infringement. …

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