Artists’ Attorney Warns Colleges About Napster Use
T he attorney for recording artists Metallica and Dr. Dre wants two North Carolina universities to stop their students from taking his clients’ music via the Napster computer program.
Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have received letters from attorney Howard King asking the institutions to “promptly ban access by your community to Napster.”
While the letter doesn’t explicitly threaten litigation, the letter to Duke says the university “has a moral, ethical and legal obligation … to assure that it is not a willing participant in and an enabler of the theft of intellectual property through Napster.”
The universities were among more than a dozen King targeted.
Duke University’s counsel is still considering its response, says John Burness, senior vice president for public relations. It was unclear whether UNC had answered the letter.
To use Napster, the program must be downloaded onto a computer’s hard drive. That allows the file sharing of MP3s, or digital songs, between one user’s hard drive and anyone else currently online.
Some artists see Napster as a way to reach more people with their music, but others see it as a drain on their profits.
King filed suit against Napster and three universities — Yale, the University of Southern California and Indiana University — for not blocking the service. After the suit was filed in April, the universities began restricting access to Napster.
Neither Duke nor UNC has restricted any access to Napster. Both universities have started educational campaigns to teach students that downloading copyrighted songs equals intellectual property theft.
Betty Leydon, vice provost for information technology, says Duke’s computer policy “talks about appropriate use of computing. It doesn’t refer to things like Napster, which wasn’t around” when it was written, she says. But, she adds, “We’ve tried to educate our students and remind them about copyright laws.”
Unlike many universities, neither Duke nor UNC has had problems with Napster overwhelming its computer networks because the MP3 files are so large. Duke upgraded its network to the Gigabit, which can handle 1 billion bits per second, up from about 100 megabits per second, Leydon says.
Jeanne Smythe, director for computer policy at UNC, says university officials normally do not ban Web sites, but they have begun educating students.
Smythe and Leydon say they are not sure that blocking Napster is the answer to this problem because so many other computer programs that allow file-sharing are popping up, such as Gnutella.
Blocking sites also degrades the entire network’s performance because the network server has to look at every message, Smythe says.
Napster also faces a court battle from the major record labels. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued a preliminary injunction against Napster that would have shut the service down. However, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the injunction pending an appeal to be heard in October.
— The Associated Press
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