TOP SONY MAN STIRS FRESH NAPSTER ROW

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A row breaks out after an executive from the company claims they are developing software to block access to Napster...

The Sony corporation is trying to distance itself from comments made by a senior staff member which suggested the company was developing software that could block access to the controversial Napster file-sharing programme.

Steve Heckler, a senior Vice-President of Sony Pictures Entertainment US (sister company to Sony Music, which runs the company’s labels, including Columbia and Epic), made his comments when speaking at the Americas Conference On Information Systems 2000 in California earlier this month (August 19/20). Following his prepared keynote speech, Heckler took questions from the floor, and in response to one question regarding Napster, Heckler was quoted by US student news service U-Wire as saying “Sony is going to take aggressive steps to stop this. We will develop technology that transcends the individual user. We will firewall Napster at source – we will block it at your cable company, we will block it at your phone company, we will block it at your [ISP]. We will firewall it at your PC. These strategies are being aggressively pursued because there is simply too much at stake.”

Heckler‘s comments sparked fierce debate among Napster users and civil libertarians as they appeared to suggest that the multinational was developing software which would prevent legitimate use of sites to which Sony took exception.

But according to a report carried on yesterday (August 29) by UK tech newswebsite The Register ([url=]www.theregister.co.uk), Sony Music Entertainment have downplayed Heckler‘s remarks as being personal opinion rather than company policy. In response to a Register reader’s query, an un-named Sony Music source is quoted as saying that “…in an informal conversation after his prepared remarks, he was quoted by a student newspaper as allegedly making certain statements regarding Napster. The story that appeared as a result is totally inaccurate. Furthermore, the quotes attributed to Mr. Heckler have been taken out of context and do not represent the opinions or strategies of Sony Pictures, Sony Music or any other Sony Company.”

nme.com has attempted to contact Sony Music to verify this statement but received no comment from the company’s London office, and our calls and emails to the New York office were not returned by the time this story was published. The statement quoted by The Register does not claim that Heckler‘s comments were inaccurate, which has led to continued speculation that Sony is looking at other means of ending Napster‘s operations should the industry-wide legal action instituted by the Recording Industry Association Of America against the file-sharing website not find in favour of the music business.

In his prepared speech Heckler looked ahead to a near future in which today’s plethora of media-reception devices – television, radio, computer (for Internet access), video or DVD player – would be replaced by a single stand-alone machine. He identified the Sony Playstation 2, which will play audio CDs, DVD movies and access the Internet, as the first step towards such a device. nme.com also attempted to contact Sony‘s Playstation-making division (Sony Computer Entertainment Europe) to find out if the Playstation 2, to be released in the UK this autumn, would contain software that could block access to Napster, but there has been no response as yet.