Remember Napster, the online network where you could download music recordings for free? All it did was completely transform the entertainment sector.

You may not remember its impact, however, because the first version of Napster was only around for a brief time. Soon after Napster’s inception on June 1, 1999, the recording industry sought to shut it down.

As Napster fought for its life in court, users continued to rip CDs and upload tunes to their computers and the file-sharing network for others to download. According to The Guardian, Napster had an estimated 80 million users at its peak, up from 20 million in 2000.

“Napster was more than simply a file-sharing service; it was a limitless digital jukebox. “And it was free,” noted author Stephen Witt in the 2015 book “How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy.”

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As Napster celebrates its 25th anniversary on Saturday, we take a look back at the controversial file-sharing service’s inception, influence, and current status.

Napster laid the groundwork for streaming
After shutting down in July 2001, Napster declared bankruptcy and relaunched as a subscription service in 2003 after being acquired by software developer Roxio. By then, Apple had launched its iTunes Store for customers eager to pay for songs and albums. Record business lawyers were left fighting newer, more difficult-to-shut-down unlawful networks that allowed people to freely share music.

But none seized the zeitgeist as much as the original Napster, which redefined consumer expectations for music – and, subsequently, movies and video games.

Napster foretold digital downloads and music streaming services such as Amazon Music and Apple Music, as well as Deezer, Pandora, Spotify, and Tidal, according to Ken Pohlmann, professor emeritus at the University of Miami, an electrical engineer and author of “Principles of Digital Audio.”

“The same online distribution model paved the way for the creation of video streaming” and services like Netflix, he explained.

What is Napster, and what went wrong?
Shawn Fanning began developing Napster while a freshman at Northeastern University in Boston. When downloaded and installed on a personal computer, the Napster software enabled users to search millions of MP3 song files on other people’s computers that also had the software. All users might download songs from each other’s laptops.

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“It was something that just provided a better way … a more reliable and fun way for people to share music and see each other’s music collection,” the Napster co-founder stated in an interview with the BBC, first broadcast in 2011. Napster took its name from Fanning’s moniker, which he received as a result of his haircut.

Fanning would end up on the cover of Time magazine, and Napster would also appear on the cover of Newsweek.

However, the recording industry had a different opinion on Napster, criticizing how the network allowed users to distribute music anonymously, which went beyond the customary “fair use” of sharing copyrighted work with friends if you weren’t earning.

According to Joseph Menn’s book “All the Rave: The Rise and Fall of Shawn Fanning’s Napster,” the Recording Industry Association of America labeled Napster as “a safe haven for piracy” in its December 1999 complaint charging copyright infringement.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the RIAA’s lawsuit demanded $100,000 for each copyright-protected music shared on the network, or approximately $100 million.

Metallica, Dr. Dre, and other bands had problems with Napster.
While some musicians backed Napster and urged labels to adopt a subscription service, others were more outspoken in their criticism of the company’s shortcomings.

Among them are the rock band Metallica and record producer and rapper Dr. Dre, who filed their own copyright infringement lawsuits shortly after the RIAA sued on behalf of the record labels.

Metallica handed boxes of files in May 2000, citing more than 300,000 Napster users who had downloaded Metallica tracks, including a demo version of the song “I Disappear” from the “Mission Impossible 2” soundtrack before it was released for sale.

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“It all began when a man posted a song on the Internet that we hadn’t finished mixing yet. In 2003, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich told USA TODAY, “I wanted to know where it came from.” “Things changed drastically from there. It was never about money or greed; it was about control. I don’t mind giving (music) out, but I want to choose what to offer.”

While Ulrich and Metallica received a lot of criticism from the media and fans for their stance, they had a valid argument. “File sharing is synonymous with music piracy,” Pohlmann explained.

“Napster tapped into an anti-establishment sentiment that supposed that the music industry was ripping people off,” he stated. “Some clients took great delight in turning the tables and taking advantage of the industry. What they overlooked was that they were also stealing from the musicians.

Other artists were also outraged, if not as visible. Eminem had to rush the release of the track “The Real Slim Shady” from 2000’s “The Marshall Mathers LP” after it leaked on Napster. The same thing occurred with his 2002 album “The Eminem Show.”

“All the work, days, months, and hours I spent writing, recording, and tuning it… all the songs leaked. It was as if music should be free,” says Marshall “Eminem” Mathers in the upcoming two-part docuseries “How Music Got Free,” which airs June 11-12 on Paramount+. He, along with LeBron James, serve as executive producers.

“Then it’s like, OK, so here’s what you don’t understand (about) music: it should be free. “I have an engineer to pay,” he explained. “There’s an army of people that work at Interscope (Records) that need their paycheck.”

So, what happened with Napster?
A federal judge rejected Napster’s claim that users were just space-shifting their music because other users could download songs they did not own before.

Napster paid $26 million to settle separate suits filed by music publishers and songwriters, but in June 2002, it filed for bankruptcy when the court ruled in the record companies’ cause.

Meanwhile, the recording business began to sue those who shared or downloaded music. Eventually, roughly 17,000 people were sued, “all just ordinary people,” according to Witt, who now serves as an executive producer on the film “How Music Got Free,” based on his 2015 book.

In 2014, Napster co-founder Sean Parker told The New Yorker that the company sought to strike a deal with the record business. “Napster had been this cultural revolution, much more than it was ever a legitimate company,” he stated.

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“There was this unique opportunity in history,” said Parker, who would later become Facebook’s first president, invest in Spotify, and establish The Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy.

“We said, ‘If you shut down Napster, it’s going to splinter, and you’re going to have a Whac-A-Mole problem, where you’re fighting service after service, and you’re never going to get all those users back in one place.'” “That’s what happened,” Parker explained.

Napster triggered a ‘wave’ of technical revolution.
In May, “All the Rave” author Menn (now a reporter for The Washington Post) told The Los Angeles Times that Napster’s narrative is still remembered among tech pioneers.

“Uber and Airbnb took the same approach – blow away taxi and hotel regulations to give people something they want and grow so big you eventually get politicians on your side,” Menn told the New York Times. “Napster created this whole wave of antihero entrepreneurs.”

Looking back, Fanning told USA TODAY in 2009 that he was “completely blown away by the amount of interest and controversy.” I would not say that I regret anything. It’s easy to look back and see how such a complex issue transpired and how you could have made better decisions, but overall, it was a fantastic experience.”

At the time, Fanning had sold Rupture, a network that connected video game gamers from various systems, to Electronic Arts. Fanning went on to co-found Helium, which develops wireless networks for internet-connected products.

Echoes of Napster’s adventure may be found in current news, with TikTok and Universal Music feuding – with Taylor Swift’s music being removed from the platform – until reaching an agreement in early May.

Sony Music has warned artificial intelligence developers against using its music to train AI models.

In 2009, Fanning remarked of the music industry, “It is extremely difficult to make anything creative. (You’re) dealing with a lot of folks who aren’t excited about the prospect of their business model changing.”

Is Napster still available today?
Napster is still playing music, but as a subscription service, with only a fraction of the customers held by prominent competitors such as Apple, Amazon, Spotify, and YouTube Music.

Many people believe the brand has potential because it has changed ownership multiple times, including being owned by Best Buy in 2008 and merged into the Rhapsody music business, which purchased it in 2011.

It is presently owned by a private consortium led by Hivemind Capital, an investment business that focuses on digital media, cryptocurrencies, and blockchain technology. In 2022, Hivemind bought Napster from MelodyVR, a virtual reality firm.

Napster ( offers 110 million+ recordings from artists such as Beyonce, Taylor Swift, and The Beatles in CD-like lossless quality for $10.99 per month ($14.99 monthly for a family plan). A 30-day free trial is available.You may download music to your Android or iOS smartphone to listen on the move, and transfer your music from other services for free.There are thousands of videos available, too.The application also allows you to construct playlists with AI..