November's edition of Reverb Monthly featured an article ( "Rhapsody: Perfecting the Pitch" ) by Chris Kornelis about Seattle-based music subscription service Rhapsody that detailed


Napster, Digital Rights Management, and Lawsuits Against 12-Year-Olds: 10 Defining Moments in Digital Music History

November's edition of Reverb Monthly featured an article ("Rhapsody: Perfecting the Pitch") by Chris Kornelis about Seattle-based music subscription service Rhapsody that detailed the pioneering company's past and future in the context of the digital music revolution. Here's a look at 10 milestones (in chronological order) in the history of digital music.


1) Shawn Fanning starts Napster.

Napster, a file-sharing service founded by Northeastern University drop-out Shawn Fanning, begins operations in June 1999. After negotiations with the start-up company fall through, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) sues for copyright infringement in December, asking for damages of $100,000 per song.

2) Lars Ulrich takes a stand against piracy

Metallica's Lars Ulrich speaks out against Napster and what he termed "piracy" to a Senate committee in July 2000, provoking the Internet's collective ire and launching a public relations fiasco from which the band never fully recovers (their recent collaboration with Lou Reed certainly isn't doing them any favors.) As a result, few artists are willing to speak out against music piracy.


3) Apple Launches the iPod

Apple launched the iPod, its now-ubiquitous mp3 player, in October 2001. At $399, it can hold "1,000 songs in your pocket." In what would turn out to be a grand understatement, CEO Steve Jobs says while introducing the product, "This is going to be the hottest gift this holiday season."

4) The dawn of DRM

Record labels and movie studios begin to implement digital rights management (DRM) on music and movies, limiting the devices a file can be stored on and the number of times it can be copied. ''We need to put in speed bumps to keep people honest,'' MPAA President Jack Valenti told federal regulators. "If we don't, our future is bleak."

5) The RIAA's infamous lawsuit campaign

The RIAA announces plans file lawsuits against thousands of individual file-sharers in June of 2003; the first settlement occurs in September in the case of a 12-year-old girl. (The above video is from a similar case from 2007.) In 2008, the organization decides to end the campaign after years of mostly fruitless litigation, deciding to work with Internet Service Providers to monitor piracy, a new strategy that never gains traction.

6) Sony's rootkit scandal

As part of a class-action lawsuit, Sony BMG forced to issue widespread refunds for approximately 15 million CDs whose DRM coding includes invasive, personal information-stealing rootkit technology.


7) iTunes tops one billion downloads

Launched in 2003, the iTunes Store had long been the frontrunner in digital music sales when it reached this milestone in early 2006. In subsequent years, competitors like Amazon MP3 begin to emerge, but iTunes remains the clearly established leader in the industry.


8) Subscription services and social media

After launching its Zune media player in November of 2006, Microsoft introduces social networking site "Zune Social" in late 2007. The announcement comes just months before Rhapsody launches a Facebook application, becoming one of the first subscription services to do so.


9) 99 cent albums

Employing a strategy of music as loss-leader once employed by Best Buy and Circuit City, Amazon MP3 offers Lady Gaga's Born This Way for an unprecedented 99 cents on May 23.


10) The end of Napster

Rhapsody--the largest paid digital music subscription service in the U.S., with more than 800,000 subscribers--acquires Napster from Best Buy, and announces plans to "sunset" the brand in the United States on Oct. 3. Just over a decade late for an industry that has seen sales fall more than 47 percent since Napster's emergence in 1999.

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