Sony MZ-1 Portable minidisk recorder

Sony, 1992

 © Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek

Digital music


Thanks to MP3 players one's favourite music becomes available almost everywhere and anytime. Music fans rejoice as musical exchange platforms become available on the Internet which, however, are antagonized by the music industry.

The Internet permits direct marketing of music. The American pop musician Prince offers unreleased tracks on his homepage, which can be downloaded for a fee. In this way, fans can also purchase discounted tickets for his concerts. The American company Napster, founded in 1998, sets up an online exchange market for music. By 2001, this service is used by approximately 80 million users from around the world, who exchange 2 billion files per month for download to their MP3 players. The massive amount of free downloads provokes the music industry which, fearing a loss of sales, responds with legal action. Napster is charged with music piracy. The company is accused of not owning the rights for many of the titles. In return, Napster calls for a boycott. It requests users to only purchase CDs from musicians who are cooperating with Napster. Later, Napster softens its tone and announces that copyright protected titles will be removed from its list of offers. Furthermore, software is introduced to enable the download of titles from the Internet without allowing them to be written to CD.

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