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Napster, Metallica, Copyright violations and Privacy
About North Georgia

About North Georgia's publisher Randy Golden contributes a look into life in north Georgia, the Web, or anything that's on his mind.

Hello, friends
Who hasn't heard of Napster? While most people may not understand the technology, the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America, site) and two of their artists, Dr. Dre and Metallica have sued Napster for copyright infringement, and rightly so. The use of Napster allows fans to exchange recordings without previously purchasing the album.

Thanks to our extensive work with artists and copyright law we understand the plight of these big-name artists. They want to protect their own work and ensure that other artists work is protected as well. You might think that Metallica and Dr. Dre have better things to do, but the ominous clouds are forming around Napster's site and their product. Quite frankly, we believe that in order for Napster to survive it will have to evolve from an "underground" format to an above-board player, if it can even survive in the coming months.

And it is making remarkable strides in that area. Offensive lyrics mean that Offspring won't get airtime on mainstream rock stations, so Napster offers a "back door" to get their music out to be heard by fans. It is possible that by releasing one or two tracks from an album to Napster those less well-known groups may profit from the exposure. It is possible that even popular groups can increase album sales. However, it is clear that having every track from every album for free on-line will not make any money for the groups. Lance Bass, de facto spokesman for N'Sync, feels that the record first week sales for their latest album (2.5 million copies) would have doubled had it not been for the presence of Napster.

But in trying to combat the problem, Metallica scarfed the names of 300,000+ fans who downloaded or uploaded their songs using the program over a single weekend. We believe that this is wrong as well. Privacy is perhaps the single most important issue on the Internet today, and collecting the names and publishing them, although not illegal, is just as irresponsible as publishing copyrighted material without permission.

Retrieving this kind of information from the web isn't very hard if you have a fast computer and a "large pipe," a webmaster term for a high
bandwidth connection. While I'm not a big Metallica fan, if I were and my name was on the list I would think that they really weren't interested in me. I must admit that there were other means open to them to combat this problem. While the courts may be slow, would this not have been a better means for pursuing the issue? I have to think so.

Randy Golden, Publisher

Editor's note: This column was written in May, 2000. On July 28 of that year a court ruling closed the Napster site down.


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