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Shawn "Napster" Fanning

In 1980 in Brockton, Massachusetts, the Fannings threw a high-school graduation party. The party quickly swelled out of control and over 3,000 people stormed the property. John Fanning, 14, was trying to raise money to pay for everything, and made a few thousand dollars off it. Meanwhile, his older sister Colleen hooked up with one of the members of the band Macbeth that had been hired to play. She got knocked up, and the jerk dumped her, but she was convinced to keep the son, who she named Shawn.

How appropriate, then, that the bastard son of an out-of-control house party would grow up to create one of the more controversial computer programs in history and, by some standards, change the music industry permanently.

Shawn and John Fanning always got along together, and John would often lend Shawn computer equipment and whatever else he could find. John gave Shawn a job at NetGames, one of his many companies he started, and let him work on various programming projects to his heart's content (although he had a reputation for not finishing what he started). Shawn eventually went to college at Northeastern, where he gained the nickname "Napster" from his nappy hairstyle. He eventually dropped out, but not before writing an MP3 trading program that became, simply, Napster.

And then the whole thing went to hell.

John Fanning saw the potential for Napster and started funding its continued development. To anyone who used the program in its various iterations, some things are obvious: professional, talented programmers were brought in to make the thing run better, and a lot of legal maneuvers were put into place to try and protect the company. For all his name being on the building, Napster had as much to do with Napster 2.0 and the growth/direction of the company as Ronald McDonald did with flipping burgers at the local Mickey D's.

The lawsuits came, with Napster (the company) squelching this way and that to get out of the mess. People started hacking Napster protocols to make their own versions of the program. Napster, which based its entire business model on trading copyrighted works, started sending legal threats to people selling Napster T-shirts and hats. And then Metallica got involved. The Record Industry went completely over the top, and if nothing else came of the entire event, the world was shown how entirely out of control the music industry had become in terms of methods, lawsuits, and behind-the-scenes skullduggery, a show of the man behind the curtain that they will ultimately regret very much.

Ultimately, Napster sold itself out to Bertelsmann, a worldwide media conglomerate (and fuckers of the first order), but by any of a number of accounts, John Fanning's clinging to control of the company to the end and demanding huge amounts of cash for its properties doomed it completely.

As for the created industry of Peer-to-Peer File Sharing that Napster lit off, one firm tracking filesharing statistics said that more files were traded in the month after Napster was shut down than in the previous two years Napster had existed, combined. Translation: The music industry thought it was already in trouble, until the second dildo slid in. Caveat Venditor: Let The Seller beware!

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