Napster Claimants 'Liars,' Says Metallica's Attorney

More than 30,000 of the 300,000-plus music fans barred from the Web site of Napster, Inc., the online music sharing software company, want their access restored. Howard King, the attorney for the hard rock group Metallica, whose actions caused these fans to be barred from accessing Napster software, has labeled them liars.

Approximately 330,000 music fans were barred from the Napster Web site recently when Metallica claimed that the fans were infringing on Metallica's copyrights by sharing Metallica recordings among themselves and others without permission or paying royalties.

Earlier this month, Metallica delivered the names of Napster users to the company with the demand that these names be blocked from access to the Napster Web site. Napster complied on May 9. However, at the time it took the action, Napster gave instructions to the barred users advising them how to make a claim against Metallica if the users believed that they were wrongly identified.

In published reports out today, Napster says that it has received notice from more than 30,000 users of its MusicShare software stating that they were misidentified as people who had illegally traded Metallica's copyrighted music.

Napster says that under federal law, if Metallica does not take legal action within ten days against the barred users who said that they had been wrongfully identified, Napster would be compelled to restore the users to its Web site. Napster also says that it has begun to forward the claims of ousted users to Metallica's attorney.

Howard King, Metallica's attorney, confirmed to Newsbytes that he had received a "boatload of perjurious statements" from Napster.

"They're absolutely lying," King asserted. "There's no question that they're lying. Each and every one of them was offering Metallica MP3s for uploads."

King said that what Napster has done is to encourage 30,000 people to subject themselves to criminal liability. The basis for King's statement is that each of the claims from blocked Napster users is signed under penalty of perjury, meaning that the signers can be prosecuted criminally for perjury if they were found to have lied.

King said that while he did not intend to seek criminal prosecution against 30,000 people, he would be using their claims as evidence in court to establish just what "a joke" Napster's claimed copyright protection policy was.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and rap artist, Dr. Dre, have also sued Napster on essentially the same grounds, claiming that Napster's software allows users to replicate and trade recorded music with others without paying a license fee.

Napster had contended that it did not make any copies itself, and that the company was not responsible for how third parties used Napster software. This contention was rejected, as a matter of law, earlier this month by the judge hearing the RIAA's lawsuit against Napster.

Asked about the correctness of Napster's assertion that legally it had to restore the barred names to access of its Web site within ten days if Metallica took no action against the individual claimants, King disagreed. He said that that would be the case if Napster were an Internet service provider (ISP), but that Napster's claim that it was just like an ISP was rejected by the judge in the RIAA lawsuit.

Napster was wrongly trying to "bootstrap" itself into the category of an ISP in order to be able to take advantage of certain protection given to ISPs by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, King said.

Napster's attorney could not be reached for comment.

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