about the exhibition
The catalogue
A MP3 Chronology
From the beginning to december 1998
January 1999 to august 2000
September 2000 to december 2001
January 2002 to nowadays
I love you
origami digital
SMS museum guide
digitalcraft STUDIO (e)

Luca Lampo & Marina Serina [epidemiC]

A MP3-Chronology. Part 2: January 1999 - August 2000

January 1999.
The number of Internet users worldwide reaches 150 million by the beginning of 1999. More than 50% are from the United States.

Recognition of the term “MP3” by users moves from 8 to 60% (per cent), according to a study in the first six months of the year by the music webzine “Webnoize”.(1)
The term “MP3” overtakes “sex” among the most requested words handled by search engines according to enquiries by the specialist site

May 1999.
During a meeting in London, the RIAA adopts a strategy to put pressure on hardware and software manufacturers. The aim is adoption of SDMI specifics for development and sale of music on line. SDMI backers want manufacturers to build a time-bomb trigger into their products that, when activated at a later date, would prevent users from downloading or playing non-SDMI-compliant music. The Company Houses invited to the meeting limit themselves to offering partial cooperation, but not immediately: new MP3 players are expected on the market for Christmas and blocking manufacture to wait for demand for a “time-bomb trigger” would bring the economy in a whole chain of manufacturers to its knees.

July 1999. is floated on the stock exchange. Its shares open at 28 Dollars and close at 72 Dollars.(1)

Chuck D. publishes his first single in MP3 format, “Swindler's Lust”, and soon after that a whole album “There's a Poison Goin' On” as a free download for the first week and then purchasable directly from the band’s website.(1)

September 1999.
The RIAA's SOUNDBYTING Campaign, which includes a kit for university and college administrators as well as a web site, provides the core materials to serve as a framework for discussion of music and the Internet. Its purpose is to raise awareness that reproducing and distributing music illegally is akin to stealing, and such actions have serious ethical and legal consequences. The RIAA hopes to clearly outline what is allowable and to provide informative material about copyright law through its university and college materials and on the SOUNDBYTING web site.
” educate universities and students about respecting the rights of musicians on the Internet. Because uploading and downloading somebody else's music without their permission isn't just against the law. It's a rip-off. Simple as that.” (from

MP3 meets Peer-to-Peer: it’s “Music Free!”

Peer-to-Peer (P2P)
Peer-to-Peer is a network model where each computer connected is simultaneously able to offer and request a service with parity and in a decentralized manner. In the case of P2P networks with “file-sharing” or “file-swapping” functions, the computers request and send files and supply services questioning the shared files.

November 1999.
“There is a cool new tool out there called Napster that allows anyone to become a publicly accessible FTP site - tapping in to that huge resource of personal MP3 collections that everyone has, but have not been able to share... RIAA should be scared out of their minds because users are not logged on permanently, so it's hard to track them down to take legal action.” (from Slashdot Daily Report 11/17/1999).

Napster is a Peer-to-Peer protocol enabling sharing of MP3 files amone users of customer program Napster, downloadable free of charge from the site
The search for musical documents in the directories shared by users is carried out by a central server indexing the musical documents and adressing their transfer. The Napster central server contains only the list of songs made available by users, the real MP3 files reside only in the computers of individual users and are never transferred into the Napster server.
The company says its software aims to make finding MP3 files easier on the Net.

December 1999.
In a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Northern California, the Recording Industry Association of America charges Napster with violating federal and state laws through “contributory and vicarious copyright infringement”, because it has created a forum that lets online users trade unauthorized music files directly from their PCs. Judge Marilyn Patel is expected to resume that case in the next few weeks.

At the request of the RIAA, use of Napster is banned in almost two hundred American universities.

January 2000. announces its Instant Listening Service. The new service enables listening via the web to music chosen from a database of over 45.000 MP3 documents. The service is accessed by registering and typing in the proof of purchase code at one of the CD-Store Partners of, or by putting the original CD into the player. The service enables opening of a personalized account: “My”, allowing creation of one’s own playlist of songs chosen from the entire database. One week after the service opens, the RIAA sues The charge: Instant Listening Service favours violation of the laws on copyright defined by the DMCA, insofar as nothing would prevent a user from using CDs lent to access the service.’s defence: the Audio Tracks made available can in no way be copied onto the user’s hard disk, the software is limited to supplying a version listenable in MP3 format. The company explains that the basic idea is to promote the nascent music on-line market by devising new services, new marketing strategies and creating new promotional opportunities for musicians.
In February presents a counter-accusation stating that the RIAA, in demanding the closure of the service and database, is attempting to take an advantage in the market for the distribution of on-line music. In May, the preliminary sentence states that is guilty of violation of copyright, the Federal Judge of New York, Jed Rakoff presiding. The company decides to interrupt supply of services declared illegal and comes to an economic agreement with the record company EMI.
On 18 August, the trial begins at the District Court of New York. is sentenced to repayment of 250 million dollars to the Universal Music Group, approximately 25.000 dollars for each CD used.

March 2000.
Gnullsoft is the section devoted to the development of Open Source software within Nullsoft, the manufacturer of the popular Winamp (MP3 software player) recently purchased by America On Line (AOL).
Gnullsoft releases the first version of a new, revolutionary Peer-to-Peer protocol: Gnutella.
The web page hosting the download of the program is soon closed down by the company itself, but the public release of the Source Code enables anyone to use the Gnutella protocol to develop other programs. Within a short time, several dozen different Gnutella software clones are available on the Internet.

Gnutella is a Peer-to-Peer protocol with a substantial difference from Napster: user-shared files are not searched by a central server but in a decentralized manner by the Peer-to-Peer network itself. Gnutella was designed to connect up to the entire network of users, establishing a link with any one of them.In short, a Gnutella client connects to another Gnutella client who,in turn, connects to another Gnutella client, using a method similar to word-of-mouth to perform document search.
A Gnutella client is also a Gnutella server and this characteristic makes the protocol technically and legally attack-proof. Gnutella does not belong to a company and any responsibility can only be attributed to the end user: the person who shares the file.
In comparison with the centralized search by Napster, the only disadvantage of Gnutella is the high consumption of network resources by each user.

Apart from MP3 files, the Gnutella protocol enables any other type of document to be shared.

April 2000.
The rock band Metallica sue Napster for damages, demanding $100.000 compensation for each of their tracks indexed in the Napster archive. The band’s lawyers identify users sharing the band’s songs and demand Napster block access for them to the service.
On website “Campchaos” ( a series of satirical cartoons appears, produced by Bob Cesca, showing a biting caricature of Metallica in their fight against Napster. The series of cartoons becomes very well-known on the net.
Public opinion is split:some support Metallica in defence of copyright, others support Napster.

Elton John and Paul McCartney join the anti-Napster front with a public campaign supported by British Music Rights with the slogan “Respect the Value of Music”.(3)

Arrival of “The File Sharing Portal”, soon to become an important reference for information and discussion involving all file-sharing enthusiasts.

May 2000.
At the preliminary hearing the judge of the Federal Court of San Francisco, Marylin Hall Patel, declares Napster effectively responsible for violating regulations defending copyright.

July 2000.
The Federal Court confirms this decision. By 28 July, Napster must remove from its central index all documents protected by copyright or close the service.

The RIAA-Napster trial is widely covered in the international media, causing an unexpected side effect. Most people only understand the following message from the complicated proceedings of the trial: “..There’s a thing they call -MP3-. It means: free music! You get it on Internet in a place called Napster!”.
From February to July in the USA, connections to Napster increase from one to nearly five million, outstripping all expectations. Napster is, according to Media Metrix, the best-known and fastest-used internet program. Surfers logging on to Napster from home in the USA represent six per cent of PC owners equipped with an internet connection.
Legally or illegally, file-sharing becomes a collective, viral phenomenon. Large numbers of songs and other musical contents are digitised in MP3 format from Audio CDs directly by individual swappers. “It’s the buzz of sharing!” (Agnese, Candida TV).
This spontaneous data entry operation which is still ongoing, makes a decisive contribution to the spread and affirmation of the MP3 audio compression format.
From now on, MP3 can be said, although controversially, to have become a “product”, to all intents and purposes.

August 2000.
Napster’s lawyer, David Bowies, appeals to the Court of Appeal. The Court grants an extension and establishes that Napster can continue to supply the service while awaiting the definitive sentence, due on 18 August.
The date for the appeal hearing is set for 18 September.

During the appeal hearing, Napster’s lawyer uses the defence strategy based on the previous “Betamax VCR” by Sony, which had saved the Diamond Rio player in 1999. In short, Napster allows exchange via Internet of MP3 documents, but only some of these documents are protected by Copyright, hence Napster is used legally in most cases. In other words, most users do not use Napster to trade illegally in CDs. The service offered does not encourage copying, but helps users and also incentivates purchase of the original audio CDs.
Judge Patel had initially sentenced Napster, having stated that the company could not use this law since, in this case, it was not equipment but software which was being produced.

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