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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Ruling may halt Napster

Students say they are still downloading away despite a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that could result in a shutdown of Napster, a free on-line music swapping service.

The court ruled last week that Napster must prevent users from sharing copyrighted materials. Napster officials said preventing music sharing is a near-impossible goal, according to a company press release.

A U.S. District Court in California, whose July ruling essentially called for a shutdown of the online service, will revisit the case to determine how Napster can avoid copyright infringement.

Even after Napster offered a $1 billion settlement Tuesday to recording companies to allow it to continue with a plan for a membership-fee service, the site could still be shut down in coming weeks.

Napster officials said they will provide $1 billion to major and independent labels, songwriters and artists throughout the next five years, according to a Feb. 20 company press release.

Napster also released a membership-fee based business plan that will include “basic membership” and “premium membership” plans. Under the proposal Napster will offer a basic membership for $2.95 to $4.95 a month, which would limit the number of file transfers each month. A premium membership at $5.95 to $9.95 would offer unlimited file transfers.

According to the press release, a large number of Napster users are willing to pay for the service because it has become an important part of their lives.

Some students said they are willing to pay for Napster and hope the service will continue.

“It (would) make looking for the song you just heard on the radio a lot harder,” sophomore Anthony Morris said. “I would have paid it all along.”

Sophomore Scott Sigel said he is disappointed by efforts to shut down Napster because the service allows him to make CD mixes of various songs.

“CD burners are becoming so much more mainstream that it’s like we’re back to the old days of tapes,” he said.

If Napster goes under, other Web sites will take its place and offer the same services, students said.

“I see the attack on (Napster) as an exercise in futility,” freshman A.J. Herrmann said. “From what I’ve heard there are numerous other programs that are similar to Napster.”

Freshman Nathan Blumberg said that other Web sites and services such as and Gnutella afford the same opportunity for free music downloads.

“They’re going to shut down Napster and people are going to find another way to do it,” Blumberg said. “Shutting down Napster will not end music piracy.”

Another student said he was upset by the latest decision, but feels there are other options available.

“It’s a shame, but there will be something to take its place,” junior Howard Sherman said.

Sophomore Evan Tsurumi, who has experimented with a Napster alternative called IMesh, said other pier-to-pier services are not as reliable as Napster.

“The platforms aren’t as good and the speed isn’t as good,” Sigel said.

Even though courts have said Napster is a type of copyright infringement, students said they do not feel guilty.

“I guess I can understand from the artist’s point of view (that) we are ripping them off,” junior Kimberly Young said. “I don’t feel guilty because ever since I was six years old we made mix tapes and I had no reason to buy Madonna and Debbie Gibson.”

Others felt that Napster helps CD sales.

“I don’t buy the argument that people are losing money because if you want the best performance of a song you have to buy a CD-quality album,” senior Dave Schild said.

Herrmann said Napster has broadened his musical interests.

“You look at my Napster and you say `who are the Tragically Hip?’ I have a lot of Tragically Hip songs,” Herrmann said. “You download it and all of a sudden a small Canadian band becomes stars.”

While music groups such as Metallica have equated music swapping to stealing, students appear more attuned to the service’s benefits.

“It’s just sharing an art form,” graduate student Alan Elias said.
-Kate Stepan contributed to this report

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