In this case, a number of different record companies came together to sue Napster. Their claim was that Napster’s peer-to-peer file sharing service was liable for “contributory and vicarious” copyright infringement. The district court ruled in favor of the recording studios and issued a preliminary injunction against Napster. Napster had to police its servers and remove all copyright infringing material. The district court monitored Napster’s progress and after three months, determined that Napster was not satisfactorily complying with the injunction. Then, the district court required Napster to shut off its peer-to-peer servers until it met certain conditions.
The recording companies argued that Napster should have to search for and block all files that infringed on copyrighted material. They transferred responsibility for locating infringing files to Napster. However, Napster argued that this modification to the injunction was vague with respect to how Napster should monitor its servers.
The court ruled with the district court and affirmed the decision to shut Napster down unless it could abide by the modified injunction.
Importance to Thesis:
This case is important to my thesis because it helps develop my second argument, which is that recording companies today are making the same strategic mistakes that movie studios made in response to the VCR. The first mistake they are repeating is that they are acting as an industry, not as individual companies. It is evident from the fact that five separate lawsuits were consolidated into this case that all the recording companies decided to deal with the peer-to-peer threat the same way; namely, litigiously. The second mistake they are repeating is focusing narrow mindedly on the current perceived threat without considering how this new technology may change the competitive landscape. By modifying the injunction such that Napster must police itself, the recording studios purposefully made it impossible for Napster to comply, which led to its eventual closure. This indicates that the recording studios strategy was to eradicate peer-to-peer networks entirely.