The prodigal son returns

Remember Napster?

Maybe this brief timeline will refresh your memory:

Early 1999 – Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker, aged 19 and 20, launch the Napster peer-to-peer file-sharing system, and it spreads from campus to campus like wildfire. Unlike other fledgling file sharing platforms, Napster was geared to share MP3 files, eliminating a lot of clutter and allowing students to focus on downloading as much music as their hard drives could hold.

December 7, 1999 – It didn’t take long for the recording industry to realize that they had a problem on their hands. The Recording Industry Association of America sued Napster for copyright infringement in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

April 13, 2000 – Risking criticism from their fans, Metallica brings its own suit against Napster and Yale, the University of Southern California, and Indiana University for copyright infringement. The universities did not comply with a request to block the use of Napster on campus.

Dr. Dre filed a similar suit two weeks later.

May 3 – Metallica produces a list of 335,000 Napster users they allege were swapping illegal copies of their music. They deliver the list to Naspter, which agrees to shut down the accounts of most of the users. Of course, there was nothing stopping those people from opening new accounts under different names, but the point was made.

May 5 – Judge Patel rules that Napster is in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.

July 26 – Patel grants the RIAA a preliminary injunction and orders Napster to shut down its file sharing service.

July 28 – The 9 th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stays the injunction on the basis that the injunction was unusual, and Judge Patel may have overstepped her authority.

Oct. 2 – The appellate court hears oral arguments regarding the injunction.

Oct. 31 – Napster CEO Hank Barry and Shawn Fanning announce plans to turn Napster into a paid, subscription-based system that would guarantee royalties to record companies and artists. The plan is supported by BMG Music, which has the fourth largest catalogue in the world.

Feb. 12, 2001 – The appellate court upholds Judge Patel’s finding that Napster users were using the platform to illegally copy and distribute music. It then orders Napster to stop users from trading and distributing copyrighted material, but allows the site to continue to operate until the injunction can be rewritten.

Feb. 20 – Barry attempts to make the RIAA suit go away by offering a $1 billion settlement with the five major labels and independents in the suit. The offer is rejected.

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