Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Legal Studies

Reader 1

Ralph Rossum

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© 2017 Isabella V. Kelly


When Napster was first launched on the Internet in August of 1999 by young programmer, Shawn Fanning, the intension was that the platform would easily link Internet users with the free MP3 downloads they sought out on the web. By the time an injunction against the platform was granted and upheld by a state then federal court, Napster had made a far bigger impact than simply linking music listeners with free downloads.

The proceedings of A & M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc. through the District Court Northern District of California then the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit acted to test the applicability of copyright protections that had been legislatively heightened throughout the 1990’s and built the framework for specifications for copyright protection on the Internet.

Even after fifteen years of being offline, the peer-to-peer platform still remains a household name due to the influence Napster had on shaping music consumers’ expectations of access to digital music as well as distributors’ practices.

Through a review of A & M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc. in the district and appellate courts I will explore the workings of the Napster platform and the legal issues surrounding it - with an emphasis on vicarious copyright infringement, contributory copyright infringement, the application of the DMCA, and the application of the substantial non-infringing use doctrine to software technologies, as established by Sony Corporation of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc.

I conclude that Napster has had a resounding legal, psychological, and technical impact on both the distribution and consumption of music in the digital space.