Viewpoint: Preserve constitution, ban Napster

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    I admit it. I’m guilty. I’ve been addicted to Napster since the day I was introduced to it. It’s fun. It’s free. And that cool song I just heard on the radio can be mine with just the click of a button.

    Yes, I am a copyright-infringing monster.

    So why incriminate myself? The honest truth is, I never thought anything was wrong with downloading free music files until all this lawsuit madness began.

    My obsession with Napster started innocent enough. Twenty files turned into 300 before I knew it.

    But it was never a big deal because, to me, MP3 swapping was just another squeaky clean extracurricular activity for after school. You know, something you can add to your resume in the “interests” category.

    I investigated the issues and read up on the court decisions, not because I’m a Court TV junkie, but because my import of free music was in jeopardy.

    How dare the record companies try to take away my free music! When the news surfaced about the ruling to shut Napster down, I found myself downloading all day. After breakfast, after school and before going to bed.

    Although it might seem benign in comparison, there is little difference between the attitudes of those hoarding free music and looters during riots.

    Last Monday, Feb. 12, was D-Day — Discovery Day, for my eyes have been opened to the “other side.”

    Copyright is not a transparent, vague, it-doesn’t-affect-me idea. It is real and a necessary shield of protection for artists of all sorts.

    The Ninth Court of Appeals ruled on Feb. 12.

    The court, in its decision of U.S. District Court Injunction in A&M Inc. v. Napster stated: “Plaintiffs claim Napster users are engaged in the wholesale reproduction and distribution of copyrighted works, all constituting direct infringement.”

    And here’s the kicker: The district court agreed.

    The court agreed because under copyright law, direct infringement must show two things:

    First, the plaintiffs must show ownership of the allegedly infringed material.

    Second, they must demonstrate that the alleged infringements violate at least one exclusive right granted to copyright holders.

    Those rights include the right to reproduce and distribute their materials.

    The court determined that the plaintiffs sufficiently demonstrated ownership and “as much as 8.7 percent of files available on Napster may be copyrighted.”

    The court’s logic got me thinking, as it should with all Napster users.

    Am I asking students to stop downloading music? Not at all. There is no denying technology. The ability to download MP3s from one computer to the next exists.

    But just because the technology to do something is available, should we participate in it?

    The answer to all of this lies in the music industry’s ability to adapt to the technology.

    Soon they will offer MP3s to download — for a price. Meanwhile other free MP3 sites will continue to pop up.

    The choice is yours. But keep in mind, it’s more than just a decision between right and wrong; it’s supporting the preservation of constitutional rights.

    Right now, I’m no better than the other 70 million MP3 swapping public who sign on as clever aliases and download free music.

    But we can be better than that. It’s time to start thinking.

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