August 8, 2000

The world of the Internet has sparked numerous controversies. Should the Internet be taxed? Does intellectual property online have the same status as intellectual property offline? These contentious questions are being debated in Congress and the courts.

The most recent debate surrounds Napster, which allows users to swap MP3 music files without having to pay for them. A Federal judge in San Francisco tried to shut Napster down, but an appeals court issued a stay as the case goes to court. And even if the court case reaches a quick resolution, there are an estimated 10 million people used to downloading music over the Internet. They are sure to find other ways to continue to do so.

Napster users don't believe they are violating copyright laws simply because they are on the Internet and should be free to share music with one another. Opponents argue that copyright laws apply not only to offline use but to online use as well. Quite simply, it's theft of intellectual property.

Herein lies the problem. Online music theft doesn't feel like offline theft. It doesn't seem like theft when you are sitting at home on your computer. But really is it any different from going into a music store and slipping a CD in your pocket and walking out of the store? In both cases, the musical artist is denied a music royalty. The music clip was shared, not sold.

Consider if Napster users were downloading books, works of art, or even blueprints of electronic components. Those affected by this Internet theft would sue in court and win. Internet theft of music should hold the same penalties, and that's why Napster is in trouble. The web site is a violation of copyright laws.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.