Year
2001

The death spiral of Napster begins

In the year 2000, a new company called Napster created something of a music-fan’s utopia—a world in which nearly every song ever recorded was instantly available on your home computer—for free. Even to some at the time, it sounded too good to be true, and in the end, it was. The fantasy world that Napster created came crashing down in 2001 in the face of multiple copyright-violation lawsuits. After a string of adverse legal decisions, Napster, Inc. began its death spiral on March 6, 2001, when it began complying with a Federal court order to block the transfer of copyrighted material over its peer-to-peer network.

Oh, but people enjoyed it while it lasted. At the peak of Napster’s popularity in late 2000 and early 2001, some 60 million users around the world were freely exchanging digital mp3 files with the help of the program developed by Northeastern University college student Shawn Fanning in the summer of 1999. Radiohead? Robert Johnson? The Runaways? Metallica? Nearly all of their music was right at your fingertips, and free for the taking. Which, of course, was a problem for the bands, like Metallica, which after discovering their song “I Disappear” circulating through Napster prior to its official release, filed suit against the company, alleging “vicarious copyright infringement” under the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1996. Hip-hop artist Dr. Dre soon did the same, but the case that eventually brought Napster down was the $20 billion infringement case filed by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

That case—A&M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc—wended its way through the courts over the course of 2000 and early 2001 before being decided in favor of the RIAA on February 12, 2001. The decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected Napster’s claims of fair use, as well as its call for the court to institute a payment system that would have compensated the record labels while allowing Napster to stay in business. Then, on March 5, 2001, District Court Judge Marilyn Patel issued a preliminary injunction ordering Napster to remove, within 72 hours, any songs named by the plaintiffs in a list of their copyrighted material on the Napster network. The following day, March 6, 2001, Napster, Inc. began the process of complying with Judge Patel’s order. Though the company would attempt to stay afloat, it shut down its service just three months later, having begun the process of dismantling itself on this day in 2001.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Kohl elected West German chancellor

Helmut Kohl, the interim chancellor of West Germany since the fall of Helmut Schmidt’s Social Democrat government in 1982, is elected German chancellor as his Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party is voted back into power.Elected as Rhine-Palatinate state premier in 1969, Kohl ...read more

Michelangelo born

Michelangelo Buonarroti, the greatest of the Italian Renaissance artists, is born in the small village of Caprese on March 6, 1475. The son of a government administrator, he grew up in Florence, a center of the early Renaissance movement, and became an artist’s apprentice at age ...read more

Bayer patents aspirin

Now the most common drug in household medicine cabinets, acetylsalicylic acid was originally made from a chemical found in the bark of willow trees. In its primitive form, the active ingredient, salicin, was used for centuries in folk medicine, beginning in ancient Greece when ...read more

U.S. is sending Marines to South Vietnam

The White House confirms reports that, at the request of South Vietnam, the United States is sending two battalions of U.S. Marines for security work at the Da Nang air base, which will hopefully free South Vietnamese troops for combat. On March 1, Ambassador Maxwell Taylor ...read more

Operation Lam Son 719 continues

Operation Lam Son 719 continues as reinforced South Vietnamese forces push into Tchepone, a major enemy supply center located on Route 9 in Laos. The base was deserted and almost completely destroyed as a result of American bombing raids.The operation, begun on February 8, ...read more

Real Madrid founded

On this day in 1902, the Madrid Foot Ball Club is founded by a group of fans in Madrid, Spain. Later known as Real Madrid, the club would become the most successful European football (soccer) franchise of the 20th century.With its trademark blue-and-white uniforms (originally ...read more

Monroe signs the Missouri Compromise

On this day in 1820, President James Monroe signs the Missouri Compromise, also known as the Compromise Bill of 1820, into law. The bill attempted to equalize the number of slave-holding states and free states in the country, allowing Missouri into the Union as a slave state ...read more

Georgia O’Keefe dies

Georgia O’Keefe, the artist who gained worldwide fame for her austere minimalist paintings of the American southwest, dies in Santa Fe at the age of 98.Born in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, in 1887, O’Keefe grew up in Virginia and first studied painting at the Art Institute of Chicago. ...read more

Gabriel Garcia Marquez is born

Gabriel Garcia Marquez is born in Arataca, Colombia. As a child, his grandmother told him fantastic stories of magical events, relating them as if they were fact. These early stories helped shape his own signature writing style, later known as “magical realism.”Garcia Marquez ...read more

Rob Reiner born

On this day in 1947, the filmmaker and actor Rob Reiner is born in New York City.Reiner was the son of Carl Reiner, then a regular on Sid Caesar’s famous television comedy program Your Show of Shows and its follow-up, Caesar’s Hour, where he had worked with such talented comedy ...read more

The Rosenberg trial begins

The trial of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg begins in New York Southern District federal court. Judge Irving R. Kaufman presides over the espionage prosecution of the couple accused of selling nuclear secrets to the Russians (treason could not be charged because the United States was ...read more

Georgi Malenkov succeeds Stalin

Just one day after the death of long-time Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, Georgi Malenkov is named premier and first secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Malenkov’s tenure was extremely brief, and within a matter of weeks he was pushed aside by Nikita ...read more

Dred Scott decision

On this day in 1857, the United States Supreme Court issues a decision in the Dred Scott case, affirming the right of slave owners to take their slaves into the Western territories, therebynegating the doctrine of popular sovereignty and severely undermining the platform of the ...read more

Auto pioneer Gottlieb Daimler dies

Gottlieb Daimler, the German engineer who invented an early version of the internal combustion engine and founded an auto company bearing his name, dies at the age of 65 on this day in 1900.Daimler, who was born on March 17, 1834, in Schorndorf, Germany, apprenticed as a gunsmith ...read more