back to article Dead at 13: Napster 1998-2011

So, farewell then, Napster. The company founded by Shawn Fanning - who named it after his close-crop haircut, apparently - when his peer-to-peer file-sharing app of the same name took off, is no more. The firm that now owns it, Rhapsody, will fold the online music shop that Napster became into its own store, in the US at …


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  1. Tchou

    Napster... G'd o'd times...

    THAT was innovation at the time. Farewell then.

    1. Dante

      I'd love to know why the people whom have downvoted this think Napster was NOT innovative when it first emerged.

    2. Mike VandeVelde

      a crime against humanity

      The people of the world got together and we all shared all of our culture. It was beautiful, anyone could get access to practically everything ever created, it could hardly have been improved on. Then the Recording Industry Ass. of America marshalled their forces and declared war on culture. Grandmothers were bankrupted for "stealing" music. RIAA rented politicians who made it more and more of a crime to posess an "unauthorized" recording of a performance. People of the future will look back on this time and shake their heads. The good fight carries on, splintered and underground, but totalitarianism can't win in the end. The internet is based on sharing, the World Wide Web is all about sharing, people instinctually share, often even when it costs (as it certainly *doesn't* when talking about digitized data). Some people think sharing is communist and that communism for some reason is evil. Mostly those people are the people who have more. Those people are losing, those people will lose.

      If you went back 25,000 years, and told the cavemen sitting around the campfire to stop singing that song because its your song and you worked hard to create it so they have to give you 3 furs each time they perform it, you would have been banished from the tribe, and they would have laughed and kept singing "your" song. As it was and will and should be.

      Your art has no value unless you share it. And once you share it, it's not yours anymore.

      RIP Napster.

      1. Handel was a crank

        Yup, great isn't, reducing songwriters and musicians to unpaid monkeys for your sharing pleasure. Good luck with that. You get what you pay for.

        1. Steven Roper

          @Handel was a crank

          Don't like the pay you make as a artist? Then get a fucking day job like everyone else. Art and music were once forms of expression of emotion and feeling, not a moneymaking enterprise. Art for the heart, not art for the mart. If you're only doing it to make money, then you're doing it for the wrong reason, and you deserve everything you lose when people share artistic culture freely.

        2. Giles Jones Gold badge

          See it in context. There was no iTunes and there was practically no download media market back then.

          People wanted to download music, discover new music and so on. There was nothing legal that allowed you to do so back then.

          Sure, there were websites with mp3 clips littered around the place, but nothing centralised.

      2. JonP


        Singing a song someone else sang is one thing. Distributing a copy of a performance of a song someone paid money to write, record and produce (without their permission) is another. That's why Napster failed - it wasn't fair.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Morally bankrupt

        I completely agree that sharing cannot really be stopped but by the same token I don't agree it's fair for you or anybody to simply share someone else's hard work without asking them first. Supposing I walked into your office told your bosses I did all your work, when actually it was you, I claim your pay, your bonuses and perks, should there be any. Is that fair?

        I shoot lots of photos and upload them, I put them up for display and I have no issues with anyone taking copies providing they acknowledge the photos are mine and they're not sold for profit anywhere. When I find one of my photos has been used without permission I get a little miffed. I got up at 3am on the day of the shoot, drove 200 miles to the location, waited for hours for the right time and light and then using expensive equipment I had to pay for myself, I shot the picture. The next day I had to get up and go back to my day job. The least someone could do is respect that hard work and not rip off my picture and claim it was theirs, taking any praise that might come from it!

        So next time you start shouting your mouth off about sharing artwork, you consider that someone has to create all that art and music you enjoy and at the very least they deserve some respect, and if they wish some financial reward so they can continue to create more work for you to enjoy.

        1. Shakje

          @AC 10:15GMT

          I fully agree with what you're saying. Someone taking something that is yours, and then claiming it is their own work, and profiting from it, is a terrible thing to do. It's essentially fraud.

          Now let's say that someone bought a few pictures off you for a decent sum, and you found out a year later that they had made a copy using a scanner and decent printer, framed it, and given it away as a Christmas present to someone. Would you be as mad at them as you were to the person that profited from your work claiming it was your own?

          I don't honestly know the answer to whether or not piracy is a problem. I've pirated stuff in the past, but, being utterly and completely honest, I never did it when it is something that I would otherwise buy or pay for. In the few cases where I have been happy with it (not even particularly amazed) I have bought it, and some studies have shown that people who pirate DO in fact spend more money on the same items than those who don't. I also don't think that it's fair to blame the decline of the music industry at the feet of piracy, it started as soon as people started getting access to information and realised that they didn't have to listen to the tripe that was being shoved down their throats. It's also a direct result of the swamp of music that is mediocre borne out of the availability of instruments, recording gear and studios. Unfortunately, while this provides some real quality that we would never have seen twenty years ago, hidden under a rock, it also provides some real mediocrity with bands who should never have seen the light of day managing to get some exposure and then complain that no-one is buying their music.

          However, I do find it difficult to contend with the argument of fairness. Is it fair that someone who has worked their whole life, and whose hard work has culminated in an astounding piece of music, art or literature, should be rewarded with nothing? Of course not, but we really are entering a new era of distribution, and it's more possible than ever to offset losses from piracy by circumventing the music industry. Promotion and distribution are getting easier every day, and people are now, more than ever, drawn by quality rather than buying any old thing. In some ways the music industry is turning very rapidly into a truly free market, with people getting the money which is deemed that they deserve. I think it's also difficult to talk about fairness when the people who are most vociferous are those who earn many times the average person's salary. Is that fair? Is it fair that scientists who are working on medical breakthroughs, or an understanding of our universe can earn a pittance, while people who happen to be able to make music quite well can earn ridiculous sums and then complain about a drop of 10% in their income as if it's the end of the world? I don't expect them to get nothing, but I don't see why they should be deemed more important to society.

          But all of this is by the by because both examples are of people taking credit for something that you have done, or profiting by it, which most people would say is plain wrong (including most pirates I suspect). The question is, what if they aren't profiting from it? I gave an example for your second analogy, but for your first one it would be more like your colleague printing off your work lots then handing it out to your co-workers and bosses, saying how much he liked it, and telling everyone that it was by you. You aren't getting paid for the extra copies, just the work you did originally, but isn't that a good thing for you?

          Obviously this isn't a direct parallel, because in order for it to be so you would have to pay artists a fixed wage for their work, but do you get my more general point? In many ways, filesharing is all about respect, with a bit of naivety mixed in.

          I'd also remind you that many of the greatest artists who ever lived earned very little and died in poverty (and in some cases, lunacy). I think they deserved respect while they were alive, but if you want to compare yourself to them, maybe you should think just how much better off you are to start with?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Shakje +1

            @Shakje very well put - certainly nothing I can say can improve the points you have made.

            From a personal example, as a freelance consultant I want nothing more than people to take my work and share it around. I have no issues with my Intellectual Property being used by others (as long as they know it is mine) because that is the primary driver for business for me.

            People are welcome to take anything I have done and show it to their mates simply because this shows their mates my value.

            While I understand there are some who disagree with the analogy, I was also one of those who bought products after downloading them and more importantly, selected what I would pay to see live based on the tracks I had downloaded. So for me, and in my current work life, the analogy is very appropriate and it is a shame that the Music Industry hasnt learned to adapt to the changing world.

            Interestingly (although only anecdotal), since I stopped downloading in this manner about 10 years ago, I also stopped going to see live bands and buying CDs..... For me, the two appear to have been fundamentally connected.

        2. 5.antiago

          RE Morally Bankrupt? Perhaps what people think how stuff should work just needs some adjustment?

          I think there is some kind of mindset adjustment needed when talking about culture piracy. The fact is and remains that sharing on the internet is possible, easy, and done. It's the bedrock reality, for better or worse. So that means that whatever you think about how money is made with "culture products" in the post-internet age needs to be re-addressed.

          So musicians can't make huge amounts of money sitting on their laurels. Perhaps the business model will then return to more of a live-based model? Who knows. But in the meantime, record labels are finding their marketing services less in demand. They aren't the first business model to be made obsolete by the internet

          So film producers profits are hit too. I am much more on the fence re film piracy because of the huge up-front costs to produce, but I feel that we may see some unexpected benefits - for example, larger studios producing 3 films at £100 million instead of 1 at £300 to spread the risk, better films to drive footfall to the cinema, and new (cheaper) actors emerging. In general, an improvement in the quality of the art form. Nevertheless, I think film producers have some good arguments for piracy control that the record labels (who do not produce anything but merely believe they "enable" the magic) do not.

          The art world is fine. A digital copy is not a painting, or an "original". RE photography, your particular example, I hear your frustration but since when did photography pay the big bucks? It's a hobby for most, and if you go to the lengths you do to capture the shots then that's fine but don't go round believing that you're owed a cheque for £1 million and if only those pirates had respected your work then you would have received it. If you are that bothered, stick a watermark on your public digital copies. But I'm serious when I say I hear the frustration, and I respect where you're coming from.

          RE software, I think that's clearly going to go down the Steam-Powered route, for better or worse. Software makers have the same arguments as film-producers

          RE books, I really don't know. This post is too long already.

          In conclusion, I think people should think more carefully about the real consequences of digital sharing, because it is not going away but it won't cause some sort of epic collapse in our cultural output either.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Share to win @AC10:15GMT

          "When I find one of my photos has been used without permission I get a little miffed."

          This isnt what Napster style sharing does so I think you have missed the point slightly.

          When someone downloaded a file on Napster it wasnt to pretend they had produced the work not the artist, it was to share the music for free rather than paying for it.

          As an example, if someone took a digital copy of one of your photos and sent it to their mates saying "look at this fantastic photo that @AC10:15GMT took" would you be just as miffed? How about if one of them said "wow, that is good, can you shoot my wedding / corporate brochure etc"?

          Sharing is not the same thing as plagiarism so, next time you start shouting your mouth off about sharing, consider what the terms mean.

      4. Gav


        You forgot the end of your little tale of cavemen. Having been banished from the tribe, our minstrel said "Screw this song-writing, if those tight free-loaders aren't going to pay me to write songs, I'll have to take up killing woolly mammoths like everyone else instead" And he never wrote another song ever again.

        One year later our merry band sitting around the campfire are bored stupid with the song. "Hey, song writer", they said. "Write us another song. And not another song about killing bloody woolly mammoths! That all anyone ever does around here!" At this the song-writer laughed heartedly, before telling them where to go.

        And the cavemen learned. If you don't reward someone for their effort , they won't do it again.

      5. Eddie Edwards
        Thumb Down

        The principle of copyright is, like it or not, hundreds of years old. It is more a part of our "culture" than whatever zeitgeisty pop rubbish 90% of people were using Napster to "share". People will look back at Napster and shake their heads sadly that the public took so much from the artists, and gave nothing in return, based on a whole slew of hokey self-serving excuses such as yours. Especially, people will look back at this time as the time that the word "sharing" ceased to mean giving up a part of what you have to benefit another, and began to mean redistributing stolen digital assets.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Good times, when most of us would have been on dialup and hoping our 56k winmodems didn't throw a fit and disconnect whilest downloading a 320kbps file from the service!

  2. Big O

    I'm told that in the UK the service will retain the Napster branding. I'm hoping its business as usual - the Napster model suits me and I don't want it to go!

    1. Tony Smith, Editor, Reg Hardware (Written by Reg staff)


      We're waiting to hear from Napster UK. No response as yet.

      1. Andy ORourke

        I hope Napster UK isn't going (Yet!)

        I had to sign up for a napster account in order to claim my free music that came on tokens with the 24 packs of Becks Beer! I've got 96 track credits sitting around there!!

        I wouldnt have bought the Becks if it wasnt for the music offer :-)

        Last time they did this you just downloaded the track of your choice from and "paid" with a code off the back of the label, this time I had to download Napster software, open an account, add the codes to the account, "buy" my track and then download it

        Oh well, looks like I'd best get downloading tonight !

  3. jai


    Isn't this the exact scenario that most people envisioned when looking at the music rental model that they tried to sell us, and the reason why most of us didn't choose it?

    Are people accounts still working? And if they are, for how much longer will they remain working?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    how does this business model compare...

    to spotify.


  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    No comment

    "Recording Industry Ass. of America"

  6. Tom 35 Silver badge - dead

    Will shutdown all of it's services 12/16/2011

    The ability to create a Napster account and become a new Napster member has been discontinued as of November 17, 2011.

    To our current members, thank you for being a valued Napster customer. After seven years of service, Napster Canada will be shutting down all of its services on December 16, 2011. If you are a subscriber, you may continue to use the service as long as your subscription is active and until December 16th. There is no need to cancel - you will not be charged for any subscription fees after our shutdown (and we won't bill you for any renewal that may occur between now and the shutdown).

  7. bricksterr

    So Napster is no longer the Abe Vigoda of music services. It is now actually dead.

    1. John I'm only dancing

      Abe Vigoda,

      Made even more famous by the Dickies on the track, "Stuck in a pagoda (With Tricia Toyota)"

      Good shout.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I miss the original Napster...

    The saddest thing for me about the shutdown of the original Napster peer-to-peer music sharing service back in 2001 was not the loss of the ability to download commercially available music for free-- I actually very rarely ever did that. Instead, it was the loss of the ability to download rare music that wasn't commercially sold or otherwise available. On Napster, I was able to find MP3's of fan-made recordings of live concerts, of songs from early demo tapes of now famous bands from back when they were still obscure nobodies, of unreleased songs, of long out-of-print or extremely hard to find albums, and other such non-commercially available gems. It was thanks to Napster that I was able to listen to concerts performed by one of my favorite bands that were from tours that occurred when I was still in gradeschool and way too young to know or care about such things. How is the music industry hurt by me listening to MP3's of some random fan's personal recording of a concert that took place more than 20-years ago? How is the music industry hurt by me listening to MP3's of the songs from a demo tape of some now-famous band that they made while they were still an unknown garage band in high school? I didn't need Napster to download songs from commercially available CD's-- if I really liked a band I gladly bought their CD's and bought tickets to their shows. Heck, I have legally bought my favorite album of all-time 5-times now because I started buying it back in the cassette tape-era and kept wearing the tapes out until they broke because I played the darn thing so much. But some of those rare non-commercially available music tracks that used to be on Napster, well, I haven't seen most of them available anywhere (including other P2P networks) ever since, and that's a real loss for music enthusiasts everywhere.

  9. Anonymous Coward 101

    Better use my Beck's free download vouchers soon - I've got a worryingly large pile built up.

    1. Giles Jones Gold badge

      Killed by Metallica, who rose to fame by fans sharing recordings of their concerts. They say Americans don't do irony.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > Instead, it was the loss of the ability to download rare music that wasn't commercially sold or otherwise available.


        It got to the point where it was often more difficult to find a band's latest studio album amongst the sea of rarities and bootlegs.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Wipe a tear away

          > Instead, it was the loss of the ability to download rare music that wasn't commercially sold or otherwise available.


          Napster was the source of some fantastic bits of music that are now pretty much impossible to find and will never be commercially viable enough to be reproduced.

          On the whole of it, the fight against napster never had anything to do with music enthusiasts - rather it was driven by corporate greed and people with a terminal sense of entitlement.

          Napster, in its heyday, was head and shoulders above what we have now. Sniff.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "I've got a worryingly large pile"

      there are various creams available for that but you should probably also see your doctor

    3. Brian 6

      @AC 3rd December 2011 09:54 GMT

      ""How is the music industry hurt by me listening to MP3's of some random fan's personal recording of a concert that took place more than 20-years ago? How is the music industry hurt by me listening to MP3's of the songs from a demo tape of some now-famous band that they made while they were still an unknown garage band in high school?"" Well maybe because they were hosted on a P2P network that was mainly used to share commercially available tracks. Could u really not have worked that out for yourself ???

      ""Heck, I have legally bought my favorite album of all-time 5-times now because I started buying it back in the cassette tape-era and kept wearing the tapes out until they broke because I played the darn thing so much."" If your tape deck was chewing tapes that bad maybe u should just have bought a decent tape deck.

  10. Homer 1 Silver badge

    But dude, this ain't "Napster"

    Napster died 10 years ago. The abomination that's about to pass into the never-never has zero to do with that, it's just some corporate "brand".

    I shed all my tears a long time ago.

    Here's my (albeit untimely) tribute:

    1. Michael Strorm

      Re: "But dude, this ain't "Napster""

      @Homer1; "Napster died 10 years ago. The abomination that's about to pass into the never-never has zero to do with that, it's just some corporate "brand"."

      Would have said this myself if you hadn't got there first.

      The original (and true) Napster was- in a good or bad way- historically important, but the company went bankrupt a decade back. Everything after that (when the name was bought out) was "Napster" in name only, plastered on some otherwise unrelated legal music service(s).

      For anyone still shedding tears over the loss of the brand- don't worry, I'm happy to bet that "Napster" will rise again when someone else figures they can make a few quid by exploiting the brand's historical associations. (And knowing it will be reported in the news as the "comeback of Napster" despite being no such thing, just like those other attempts at milking historically-important but otherwise dead computer brands like Commodore, Amiga, Vic 20, Acorn et al. with spurious unrelated tack.)

      While hope springs eternal from cynical marketing tossers, it's not at all obvious that reusing "known" names like this actually translates to long-term success as much as they'd like to think. After all, it didn't do much for the current moribund incarnation of "Napster".

  11. Tom 13

    Title is wrong - Napster died in 2001

    when the Appeals Court ruled it's business model invalid. The Zombie it left in its place isn't Napster, and for all the wrong they did, the service they set up is one that no commercial service has ever, or will ever be, able to duplicate. Obscure songs from lost artists were distributed by people who simply loved the music.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bertlesmann Never Acquired Napster

    They did put a bunch of money into the company, the CEO of Bertlesmann, Thomas MIddlehoff was working hard promoting the Internet around Y2K and they acquired properties like CD Now and Myplay (a music service based around a cloud storage locker....) . But, as napster ran out of cash around the middle of 2002 they negotiated a buyout for some tiny fraction of the investment (less than 10 million I believe). They got a few months of bridge funding to keep the offices open and employees on board while Bertlesmann did all the paperwork, the company entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

    Then the directors at Bertlesmann ousted MIddlehoff, his investments in internet companies had gone nowhere and they'd had enough.

    Without Middlehoff the napster deal didn't look so shiny any more, but Bertlesmann were still locked in a contract to buy it. But, because of the way Chapter 11 worked, there had to be a court hearing to approve the sale, and at the start of September 2002 a judge decided that bertlesmann's acquisition offer was unfair to other investors, killing the deal and letting bertlesmann escape.

    The employes all went out and drowned their sorrows.

    That was the real day that napster died.

  13. pPPPP

    Ah well. That's the end of music piracy then.

  14. Andrew Ducker

    The Business model

    I wonder why it failed, when Spotify has made a success of a very similar model.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Basically, I bought many CDs because i had downloaded and heard them first on Napster.

    Now, I use Spotify to find and listen to music, and rarely buy the CD's.

    I'm pretty sure that the music industry is getting less money from me now than they did back then, but I'm much happier with this arrangement. Serves them right.

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