Was suing Napster ten years ago a mistake? (POLL)

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Was suing Napster ten years ago a mistake? (POLL)

Tue Dec 08, 2009 @ 11:15AM PST

By Eriq Gardner

Napster-240px Ten years ago this week, the recording industry filed a landmark lawsuit against a peer-to-peer file-sharing service called Napster.

Represented by Russell Frackman at Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp, 18 record labels decided to push the legal theory that a service that let users distribute sound recordings online should be liable for contributory and vicarious copyright infringement. 

Here's the original complaint filed against Napster in December, 1999.

Napster lost at the District Court and was unsuccessful on appeal to the Ninth Circuit. After the District Court ordered a shut down, Napster declared bankruptcy and sold its assets. Throughout the decade, the record industry has been pursuing other copyright flagrants, including taking a case against P2P service Grokster up to the Supreme Court and going after some 30,000 individuals who allegedly made music available to these P2P services.

The decision to file the case may ultimately have been as important as the outcome. 

Was the decision to sue the original Napster out of existence a wise legal course or should the industry have tried to co-opt the technology?

Some argue that the record industry had no choice in the matter and needed to send a strong message that piracy wouldn't be tolerated in the digital age. Others believe that the industry may have been able to exert influence on a central depository of music hosted by Napster and suing the entity only lead to a proliferation of other technologies that thrived after learning Napster's legal missteps. 

In honor of the 10-year anniversary, we're conducting a poll. Let us know what you think.

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The Hollywood Reporter
The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

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