When Sean Fanning created Napster 10 years ago I was 9 years old. At the time I knew very little about computers and even less about the ramifications that files sharing service would have. All I knew was that I could get music instantly without having to pay anything and that was mighty convenient since it wasn’t like I could work, or drive for that matter. I vaguely remember hearing about Metallica’s lawsuit against the company but I don’t think I knew why the band was suing the company. Soon after Napster was shut down and I moved on to Kazaa because that’s what my friends were using. Kazaa would eventually infect my computer with viruses that prevented it from functioning at which point I gave up on P2P programs.
Now a decade later, I have a much different perspective of the situation when I look back on it. Fanning should be given his due for creating Napster, it was a fantastic achievement but at the same time it deserved to be shut down. As an avid supporter of the industry, I buy at least 3 albums a week and when I say albums I mean the physical CD. How old school of me. Napster and other peer to peer programs stunt the music industry. Why would someone buy an album when they can just download it for free? That’s the question that record companies were forced to ask themselves when Napster first came into existence.
But this peer to peer outbreak is no longer contained to the music industry. As Wired points out in their article “The Shadow Internet,” video games are also being effected by this problem too. In 2004 “a hacker penetrated the corporate servers at Valve, the game company behind the popular first-person shooter Half-Life. He came away with a beta version of Half-Life 2. Movies are suffering a similar fate; over the summer 20th Century Fox saw their big budget blockbuster X-Men Origins: Wolverine leak over a month before it’s planned release date. Though the studio’s CEO Peter Chernin claimed the leaked version was only a work print, it was later revealed that only a few special effects differed between the two versions. Some claim that this leak may have cost 20th Century close to 30 million dollars in revenue! That’s a staggering number by any standard.
It’s easy to trace this all back to Napster and even easier to blame Sean Fanning, but it’s not Fanning’s fault. Fanning simply created software he thought would benefit the masses, he didn’t comprehend the severity of his crimes. It’s the general public that’s at fault. Even after Napster was shut down by the government they’ve found alternative methods to download their content illegally. In fact now the average person is even more capable of downloading their heart’s desire for free. I’m not claiming to be a moral authority, I’m simply saying it’s something to chew on.