Senate Hears Napster at BYU

Napster founder Shawn Fanning

Napster founder Shawn Fanning (left) and local music artist Peter Breinholt testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee field hearing at BYU in October.

The Napster-spurred debate over electronic copyright found its way to BYU’s Wilkinson Student Center in early October as Utah Senator Orrin Hatch invited Napster creator Shawn Fanning and other interested parties to a Senate Judiciary Committee field hearing on “Utah’s digital economy and the future: peer-to-peer and other emerging technologies.”
Fanning, the 19-year-old who has turned the recording industry on its ear, was greeted with enthusiasm by the mostly student audience. He joined local music artist Peter Breinholt and representatives from the computer industry in testifying at one of the many hearings the Judiciary Committee conducts outside the Washington beltway each year.

“I am a big music fan myself, and it is important to me that Napster benefit artists,” said Fanning, testifying for the first time before the Senate committee. Fanning’s Web site is the most prominent of many services that allow users to find and retrieve music files on each other’s computers. In just over a year, Napster has grown to include more than 32 million members.

The swelling wave of participation in peer-to-peer music services like Napster, which foster unauthorized duplication of copyrighted songs, has raised a host of questions, concerns, and lawsuits. The Senate Judiciary Committee has been conducting hearings on the matter to examine how new technologies for the Internet are redefining business and culture.