Formerly the company, client, and network that popularized online music exchange, now a non-peer-to-peer for-pay music download service (Napster 2.0) that has very little to do with its first incarnation save that it involves Internet music and uses the old logo. While some of the original services that arose using it's protocols such as Napigator still exist, this page currently exists only as a historical reference.
Napster was a music and file sharing service, created by Shawn Fanning, that burst onto the Internet scene in a major way during the year 2000. Their technology allowed music fans to easily share MP3 format song files with each other, and lead to massive copyright violations. The service is named Napster after Fanning's nickname (he used to take a lot of naps, according to Peter van der Linden. According to Paul Romer author of the paper "When Should We Use Intellectual Property Rights?" in the "American Economic Review", throughout February 2001, at Napster’s peak, about half a billion songs were downloaded per week.
Napster was first released in the fall of 1999. Almost immediately (December 1999), several parts of the American music industry filed a class-action suit against Napster. On September 24th, 2001, the case was partially settled. Napster agreed to pay music creators and copyright owners $26 million in settlement of damages for past, unauthorized uses of music, as well as an advance against future licensing royalties of $10 million.
On 17 May 2002, Napster announced that its assets would be acquired by German media firm Bertelsmann AG for $8 million. Bertelsmann had already cooperated with Napster earlier and wants to turn the service into a profitable, legal subscription system. Pursuant to terms of that agreement, on June 3rd Napster filed for Chapter 11 protection under U.S. bankruptcy laws.
Napster's technology requires the use of their central servers, which undoubtedly made them a convenient legal target. A potential successor to Napster is OpenNap. Since most existing Napster clients can select what server they connect to, and since there is a free software clone of the Napster server, anyone on the Internet can theoretically open up a small competitor or successor to Napster.
To circumvent Napster's mp3-only policy, some use Wrapster and Unwrapper
See also Catnap | Sourceforge page - <i>The CatNap proxy will scramble file adds and searches to allow people to share any files on the Napster network without needing to rename files on the local machine.</i>