November 6, 2000
Napster: Bandwidth to copyright law
Susan Mistretta is manager of learning technologies for ITD
Emory has experienced problems associated with Napster, as have most
other universities. The technology is ingenious. Anyone can connect to
the Napster website, register as a Napster user and download the software
for free. Once that software is installed on your computer, you can search
for music on the computers of other Napster users and get a copy. The
software is easy to install and ostensibly works very well. Novice computer
users have no trouble completing the installation and using the software.
There are two big problems with unrestricted use of Napster. First, most
Emory students use the default configuration (it really works for people
who want to find music). The default configuration of the software makes
your computer a source for music without your involvement for all other
University students in residence halls often have powerful computers, fast ethernet connections and lots of music, making them the very best sources of music for the world. Last year one student called the help desk because he realized 40 people were connected to his computer when he turned it off.
Forty people downloading music from one computer takes a lot of computer
resource (the students problem) and lot of the Emory Internet bandwidth
Last spring we at ITD saw Napster traffic on the network grow and expected
it to be a resource problem this fall. During Freshman Arrival Weekend,
we shared information about Napster. As time permitted, we helped students
reconfigure their computers to minimize sharing. Our T-shirts warned about
sharing files with Napster along with other computer violations.
By early September, the impact on the Internet connection was so severe that we had to move beyond voluntary compliance; Napster use was consuming from 15 to 50 percent of our Internet bandwidth.
In mid-September the Network Communications Division (NetCom) reconfigured
the routers to limit incoming identifiable Napster traffic when network
usage is high and to block outgoing Napster traffic. We notified The Wheel
of the steps we were taking as part of our continuing efforts to educate
The Wheel articles from Sept. 19 illustrate the second problem
with Napster usewhich is the basis for the lawsuit brought by Metallica
and Dr Dre against Napster. The software makes copies of music to share,
which is probably a violation of copyright law. Napster is not actually
providing or receiving the copyrighted music (that is why they are still
in business); the users of the software are providing and receiving the
The Napster-related lawsuits involving universities are an attempt to include universities as culprits in any copyright violations that may be occurring. Emory has not been included in the cases at this time.
Most of the opinions we have seen from university lawyers and copyright
experts hold that universities will not be held liable.
Making Napster go away is not the answer to the problem. The products
for sharing video are advancing, and they can consume more network resources
than Napster. In fact, shortly after limiting Napster traffic, NetCom
moved to limit Scour Exchange traffic, another Napster-like file sharing
software. We are continuing our efforts to educate students on our Internet
connection and our internal network as shared resources, and that we do
not condone copyright violation.
For more information, send e-mail to email@example.com.