Shawn Fanning's Struggle

An uncle helped the troubled teen find his way--and he went on to create the smash Napster program

At the nondescript offices of Napster Inc. in San Mateo, Calif., I'm waiting to meet 19-year-old Shawn Fanning, its co-founder, for a lunchtime interview. Right now, Napster--a startup named for the company's free software program that lets users turn their PCs into servers to exchange MP3 music files--may be the hottest thing on the Internet. The software, developed by Fanning while he was a freshman at Boston's Northeastern University, has proved so powerful that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and 18 record companies are suing Napster for copyright infringement. By enabling individuals to tap into each other's personal song files, Napster has the potential to create the world's biggest bootleg record collection.

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