Users continued to break the law. Yet, these users that violated the law and placed themselves at threat of prosecution and fines were the true citizens. The illegal peer-to-peer services and the citizens that used them were instrumental in redefining the music industry for the benefit of both the consumer and the artist.
The importance of the copyright law in reference to audio reproduction has been a direct result of the available technology. In the 1980s the cassette player was the main device available for music reproduction. Successive reproductions decreased the recording quality and manufactures and distributors were able to maintain a competitive edge with respect to product quality. In addition, there were no channels for trading copies and availability was limited to physical contact with the media. This generally restricted the ability to copy a tape to a limited circle of friends. Large scale counterfeit operations were easier to intercept in the marketing stream and were generally highly visible to law enforcement (Kim, 2004). Enforcement of the law was usually a matter of the priorities set by state agencies. In the case of the flourishing overseas bootleg markets, little enforcement was available. However, with the advent of the Internet, peer-to-peer networks, and the Internet the ability to trade and reproduce music has expanded exponentially. Digital MP3 copies do not degrade in quality, which removes the original manufacturers competitive edge. There is no need for physical contact of the media and there are no restrictions on the availability as the source can be anywhere in the world and totally anonymous.
Historically, reproduction of copyrighted material has been exempted from coverage by the 'Fair and Private Use' clauses of the copyright laws. Fair use allows for the reproduction for certain academic, review, and informational purposes without the consent of the copyright holder. Private use allows for reproduction for personal use and no commercial gain. However, The United States copyright laws were amended in 1992 with the addition of Chapter 10 to the Audio Home Recording Act. This amendment specifically addressed the use of digital audio recording and playback devices and media. The courts have been clear as to the copyright infringement of the reproduction of MP3 audio on computing devices. To be considered a digital audio recording device, the equipment must be, "...designed or marketed for the primary purpose of, and that is capable of, making a digital audio copied recording for private use" (US Code collection, n.d.). Thus, the home computer and hard drive were not exempted from the copyright laws as an MP3 player or dictation machine may be.
With the rapid onset of advancing technologies and the proliferation of peer-to-peer networking in the late 1990s, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) became more pro-active in their efforts to insure the copyright laws were being enforced. The RIAA that represented the recording industry insisted, "...this theft has hurt the music community, with thousands of layoffs, songwriters out of work and new artists having a harder time getting signed and breaking into the business" (Piracy: Online and on the street, n.d.). The trade group asserted that it was losing billions of dollars to services such as Napster, WinMX, Morpheus, and