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Contested Codes: The Social Construction of Napster
In the 5 years since its inception, some interpretations of the software program known as Napster have been inscribed into laws, business plans, and purchasing decisions while others have been pushed to the fringes. This article examines how and why certain assumptions about Napster have gained greater currency while others have not. Our analytical approach involves an examination of discourse about Napster in several arenas—legal, economic, social, and cultural—and is informed by a conceptualization of Napster as an ongoing encounter between, rather than the accomplishment of, inventor(s), institution(s), and interest(s). While we recognize the value of empirical examinations of Napster's impact on firms and markets, as well as the proscriptive advice which it supports, we opt here for providing a contextualized understanding of the technology that complements rather than substitutes for empirical analyses of it.