Class No. 8 (the ghost of Napster)

Have you ever downloaded copyrighted content from the Internet or shared your Netflix password with a friend? We sure have! In our next class, we will debate the law and ethics of copyright infringement and discuss how the law attempts to balance “fair use” (or sharing) with property rights in the domain of copyrights. In particular, we will focus on two cases: The Sony Betamax Case (decided in the mid-1980s) as well as Metallica v. Napster (decided in the early 2000s). In summary, before Sean Parker discovered Facebook, he had co-founded a company called Napster in 1999, a peer-to-peer file-sharing website that allowed users to share MP3 music files with each other. Napster became an instant success; according to Wikipedia, “verified Napster use peaked with 26.4 million users worldwide in February 2001.” The rock group Metallica, however, wasted no time in filing a federal lawsuit for copyright infringement against Napster, and the courts eventually issued an injunction shutting down the website … But did the court make the correct decision, and on what legal grounds did the court issue this draconian remedy, i.e. the injunction shutting down Napster?

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