The Napster Wars

The war over Napster continues to rage, and meanwhile we all continue to benefit from this pioneering idea of Shawn Fanning's, and his CEO Hank Barry. Click on one of the links below to see who's saying what in the war over Napster.

(1) The OffSpring Joins Napsters Fight
(2) Excerpts from the testimony of Lars Ulrich
(3) Excerpts from the testimony of Hank Barry

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The Offspring Join Napster's Fight
by Samneric

Aug. 2, 2000

With Dr. Dre and Metallica joining forces with the RIAA to shut down Napster, it now looks as though the beleaguered music-swapping company will get some help of its own. The Offspring, a continual supporter of Napster, are selling "Save Napster" T-shirts through the band's website. All proceeds from the sale of the "Save Napster" shirts will go to The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. In addition, Limp Bizkit and Cypress Hill continue their free tour sponsored by Napster.

Other artists in support of the MP3-trading program are listed at the Napster site and include the following: Ben Folds Five, Billy Corgan, Chuck D, The Coup, DJ Spooky, Eve 6, Mix Master Mike, Radiohead and others. Napster is encouraging users to buy CDs from these artists. While no news is available for the time being in regards to the RIAA's appeal, it can be reported that the publicity of the legal proceedings is generating huge amounts of traffic to Napster. PC Data Online reports that 5.8 million people used the Napster service last week. That meant a 92 percent increase in traffic according to Neilsen/NetRatings.


On Friday July 28 two federal judges granted a stay to Napster, allowing the company to remain in service for the time being. The RIAA can appeal this ruling.

July 28, 2000

While Napster awaits word of their appeal to stop a U.S. injunction effectively shutting their music service down this weekend, CEO Hank Barry has issued a new call to arms to their users: fight back. Barry is asking all 20 million users of Napster to stage a "buycott" this weekend--buying their favorite album then writing the label explaining their support for the MP3-swapping program. He said in an interview, "We're encouraging users to go out this weekend and buy their favorite albums and write the labels, telling them Napster users are their most active customers and want to keep Napster alive."

As the deadline approaches for the shutdown, several music artists have come forward with statements. Dr. Dre said, "This is one small step for Dr. Dre and one giant step for people who actually work for a living instead of living off other people's work. Fuck Napster, and I mean that."

The most vocal opponent of Napster, Metallica's Lars Ulrich said, "A society that does not value intellectual property is a poorer society, both economically and aesthetically. We also want to thank our fans for standing behind us in this fight."

In another development, critics of the Recording Industry of America are calling their current course of action a bad move. Their argument states that by pushing users away from Napster, which runs off a controlled central server, you force them to become users of programs such as Gnutella which don't run on central server and are much harder to track and shut down.

July 26, 2000

College students of the world: you may have to start paying for music again. U.S. Chief District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel issued an injunction against the MP3-swapping program Napster on July 26, effectively shutting the service down at midnight by Friday, July 28. The injunction can be appealed. The shutdown is a result of a lawsuit filed by the Recording Industry Association of America against Napster in December.

The RIAA claims downloading of music on Napster has cost the industry some $300 million. Shortly after the ruling, the RIAA released a statement from their Senior Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Cary Sherman. He said, "This decision will pave the way for the future of online music. This once again establishes that the rules of the road are the same online as they are offline and sends a strong message to others that they cannot build a business based on others' copyrighted works without permission."

At the Napster website, creator Shawn Fanning and CEO Hank Barry addressed users through a streaming video feed. Barry said, "Although we strongly and firmly disagree with the judge's decision, we respect and understand the basis for it, and we plan to comply.... We'll fight this in a variety of ways." Shutting down Napster effectively means that some 20 million registered users will be left without a virtual trading block of MP3s. Or does it? Moments after the injunction was announced online, chat rooms dedicated to the news were filled with angry Napster users looking for alternative ways to download music. While a few people were readily sharing the RIAA's phone number and demanding that people protest, others were scrambling for programs such as Gnutella and Scour Exchange.

Like always, many blamed Metallica for their role in leading the charge to end Napster. While the injunction only pertains to Napster at the moment, it is widely viewed as a sign of things to come in the realm of copyright infringement and intellectual property laws on the Internet. 20 million users may be out of luck looking for MP3s, but the case could have much larger ramifications down the road.

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Excerpts from the testimony of Lars Ulrich
By Samneric

"Mr. Chairman, Senator Leahy, Members of the Committee, my name is Lars Ulrich. I was born in Denmark. In 1980, as a teenager, my parents and I came to America. I started a band named Metallica in 1981 with my best friend James Hetfield. By 1983 we had released our first record, and by 1985 we were no longer living below the poverty line. Since then, we've been very fortunate to achieve a great level of success in the music business throughout the world. It's the classic American dream come true. I'm very honored to be here in this country, and to appear in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee today."

Lars on Napster

"We have many issues with Napster. First and foremost: Napster hijacked our music without asking. They never sought our permission-our catalog of music simply became available as free downloads on the Napster system. I don't have a problem with any artist voluntarily distributing his or her songs through any means the artist elects-- at no cost to the consumer, if that's what the artist wants. But just like a carpenter who crafts a table gets to decide whether to keep it, sell it or give it away , shouldn't we have the same options?"

Lars on Napster users

"If you're not fortunate enough to own a computer, there's only one way to assemble a music collection the equivalent of a Napster user's: theft. Walk into a record store, grab what you want and walk out. The difference is that the familiar phrase a computer user hears, 'File's done,' is replaced by another familiar phrase-'You're under arrest.'"

"We typically employ a record producer, recording engineers, programmers, assistants and, occasionally, other musicians. We rent time for months at recording studios which are owned by small businessmen who have risked their own capital to buy, maintain and constantly upgrade very expensive equipment and facilities. Our record releases are supported by hundreds of record company employees and provide programming for numerous radio and television stations. Add it all up and you have an industry with many jobs--a very few glamorous ones like ours -- and a greater number of demanding ones covering all levels of the pay scale for wages which support families and contribute to our economy."

Lars on working for free

"It's clear, then, that if music is free for downloading, the music industry is not viable; all the jobs I just talked about will be lost and the diverse voices of the artists will disappear. The argument I hear a lot, that 'music should be free,' must then mean that musicians should work for free. Nobody else works for free. Why should musicians?"

Lars on Metallica's stance

"Make no mistake, Metallica is not anti-technology. When we made our first album, the majority of sales were in the vinyl record format. By the late 1980's, cassette sales accounted for over 50% of the market. Now, the compact disc dominates. If the next format is a form of digital downloading from the Internet with distribution and manufacturing savings passed on to the American consumer, then, of course, we will embrace that format too. But how can we embrace a new format and sell our music for a fair price when someone, with a few lines of code, and no investment costs, creative input or marketing expenses, simply gives it away? How does this square with the level playing field of the capitalist system? In Napster's brave new world, what free market economy models support our ability to compete? The touted 'new paradigm' that the Internet gurus tell us we Luddites must adopt sounds to me like old-fashioned trafficking in stolen goods."

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Excerpts from the testimony of Hank Barry
By Samneric

"Napster is a revolutionary technology based on person-to-person, non-commercial file sharing. It was invented in 1999 by Shawn Fanning, then a college freshman, who is seated behind me today. In less than a year, without any advertising or promotion, Napster has attracted millions of users of all ages and backgrounds, while gathering praise from Internet experts for its technology and contributions to the on-line community. As Andy Grove, former Chairman of Intel, recently stated, 'The whole Internet could be re-architected by Napster-like technology.' We at Napster respect and believe in the copyright laws and the values--both public and private--that they are designed to promote. We believe that copyright can successfully take into account new technologies and innovations, and that Napster and its millions of users throughout all fifty states are operating in compliance with the law."

Mr. Barry on the real issue

"The core issue is not copyright, although the recording and music publishing industry, struggling to overcome its late entry into the Internet economy, is attempting to paint it as such in court. The real issue concerns business models."

Mr. Barry on the fuss over Napster

"In sum, the ability to listen to music digitally depends on the ability to copy audio files into a computer, compress them into the MP3 format and transfer them over the Internet. Napster does none of these things. So why all the fuss about Napster?"

Mr. Barry on what Napster does

"That's it. Napster is an Internet directory service. Napster does not copy files. It does not provide the technology for copying files. Napster does not compress files. It does not transfer files. Napster simply facilitates communication."

Mr. Barry on the VCR

"As a result of decisions made by Congress and the courts, technological advances like radio, the cassette recorder, cable television and the VCR have survived copyright holders' attacks and, in the end, proved to be a financial boon to these same concerned copyright holders. The fact that this is true can be demonstrated by the statement made by Jack Valenti, the President of the Motion Picture Association of America, in the context of the Sony Betamax litigation. At that time he testified before Congress that the VCR was to the movie industry "as the Boston Strangler is to a woman alone." Sixteen years after Valenti's statement, the movie industry is thriving as never before. U.S. box office receipts in 1999 reached $7.5 billion, their highest level ever. All of this in spite of an 85.1% VCR penetration rate in U.S. households. By all accounts, the VCR has enormously helped the movie industry, and now accounts for more than half of the industry's revenues."

"The Internet revolution of which Napster is a part challenges many companies. Often, existing methods of distributing goods and services are at risk of being supplanted by new, more efficient and vibrant Internet-based distribution systems. As a result, businesses try with varying levels of success to adapt to the new environment the Internet economy is still in the process of creating. These existing companies take one of two approaches. Some embrace the new economy and mold themselves into Internet-friendly companies. For example, UPS, FedEx and WAL-MART are all examples of companies with significant pre-Internet market share that are actively adapting to the new Internet environment. Others, however, seek to exploit their position in the existing market to dominate the development of this vibrant new market space. In other words, these companies attempt to protect themselves by keeping down innovative Internet technologies."

Mr. Barry on the CD Sales

"Recording industry statistics show that the music business is booming. For example, according to the RIAA, U.S. CD sales increased 11% in 1999 to a dollar value of $12.8 billion, and are up 8% for the first quarter of 2000 compared to the same time period last year. These figures discredit a study commissioned by the RIAA in the litigation that attempted to show that sales of CDs near certain colleges from 1997 to 2000 had gone down. That report focused on declining sales at these selected stores over that time period, but failed to take into account the fact that Napster did not even exist until late 1999, and that big box and online retailers probably played the most significant role in any declining sales that may have occurred at these selected college stores. In fact, numerous studies show that Napster users are more likely to buy CDs after using the Napster directory service. For example, a recent study showed that 28.3% of users who have transferred files using Napster have increased their CD purchases, as opposed to only 8.1% whose purchases have decreased."

Mr. Barry on the gaining access

"In an industry where a few large companies operate as the gatekeepers to the American listening public, artists clearly see Napster as a revolutionary way to gain access to those who would not otherwise have a chance to appreciate their work. Jim Guerinot, an industry veteran who currently owns the Time Bomb recording label and is personal manager for The Offspring, a multi-platinum-selling rock band, has said: 'It is the band's and their manager's opinion that allowing fans of The Offspring to hear their music on Napster will make fans more, not less, likely to purchase the group's records, T-shirts and other merchandise, and attend live performances by the band... The Offspring view Napster as a vital and necessary means to promote music and foster a better relationship with fans.'"