Metallica Sues Napster, Universities, Fans

Metallica today filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California against Napster, three educational institutions, and 20 fans for unauthorized distribution of music. The suit alleges that by enabling music piracy to occur, the defendants have committed copyright infringement. Specifically named thus far are Yale University, the University of Southern California, and Indiana University.

Napster has faced heavy litigation as of late, due to their MP3-sharing program of the same name. Napster allows users to trade and share MP3s, legal or not. Many Napster-like applications have arisen since, including Globalscape's CuteMX, Gnullsoft's Gnutella, Scour's Exchange, iMesh, and more. A San Francisco judge will soon announce a verdict in the Recording Industry Association of America's case against Napster.

This will be the first time a band has directly filed suit against Napster, and the first time universities have been sued for allowing students to trade MP3s. The case will set a precedent for what legal action can be taken against the spread of digital music.

Despite being known for supporting fans' bootlegging of their live performances, Metallica's Lars Ulrich said in a statement, "[It's] sickening to know that our art is being traded like a commodity rather than the art that it is." Ulrich once was "amused" at the release of a bootleg album, until he found out the tape was a doctored recording touted as live.

Not everyone is against the MP3-sharing community, however. Public Enemy's Chuck D recently announced his support for Napster on his Web site. Thousands of smaller artists also use the service to share their legal MP3s with the world. Chad Paulson, head of SAUC, told eFront, "I think it's at the height of hypocrisy that the very band that prides themselves on audience loyalty is now prosecuting fans for simply having MP3 files on their machines." Paulson was also quick to note, "SAUC doesn't advocate piracy in any way. If you want to download music off the Internet, there is tons of good indie rock freely available."

An added amendment to the lawsuit also allows Metallica to add universities and individuals to the suit.
Sources close to the case say IP addresses and usernames are being used to identify those distributing copyrighted music. Countless others are bound to be added to the list of defendants.

New sentencing guidelines also attack the use of Napster and its counterparts. As of next month, Web users who violate copyright laws may now end up in jail.

Napster was not available for comment at press time.

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