The band filed a suit against the makers of the music distribution aid in US District Court in California yesterday (April 13), alleging copyright infringement and violations of the Racketeering Influenced & Corrupt Organizations Act. They have also named three American colleges The University of Southern California, Yale University, and Indiana University as co-defendants for not blocking student access to Napster.com. They are seeking damages of US$100,000 for each Metallica track the company is said to have allowed users to download.
Napster, set up in August last year by US teenager Shawn Fannin, built its name and reputation providing one simple piece of software that allows users to trawl the web for, and then download, MP3’s of their favourite tracks.
In a prepared statement Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich called the procedure “morally and legally wrong” and described those using the device as “common looters”.
He went on: “Napster encourages and enables visitors to its website to unlawfully exchange with others copyrighted songs and sound recordings without the knowledge or permission of Metallica.
“We take our craft – whether it be the music, the lyrics, or the photos and artwork – very seriously, as do most artists. From a business standpoint, this is about piracy – aka taking something that doesn’t belong to you; and that is morally and legally wrong. The trading of such information – whether it’s music, videos, photos, or whatever – is, in effect, trafficking in stolen goods.”
The website is still at the centre of another costly lawsuit, this time brought by the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) on a similar charge of alleged copyright infringement and trafficking in piracy.
The case was due to return to court on April 10, though presently remains adjourned.
The RIAA claims the support of artists such as Puff Daddy, Kristen Hersh and The Black Crowes in their bid to topple Napster, though Metallica remain the only names to mount a legal challenge.
Public Enemy‘s Chuck D stands alone in speaking in the defence of Napster. In a posting on Public Enemy‘s official website (www.publicenemy.com) he said:
“I’ve relished in the fact that the majors are reeling from the impact of Napster. If the record companies don’t share the marketplace with the advent of more than 100,000 start-up labels coming into the game, then they’re gonna really scream when millions of heads all get hip to the ‘NAPSTERBOOGIE’.”