Quantcast
"While I do not think that copyright owners have any general duty to license their products to others, a complete lack of licensing puts in question the labels’ professed desire to be ubiquitous."
—Orrin Hatch, Committee Chair

NET FOES BUTT HEADS
ON THE HILL

Online Heavies Testify Before The Senate, Haggle With IRS Over Tax Returns

By Simon Glickman and Marc Pollack

Where's Monica Lewinsky when you need her?

D.C. denizens had to make due with some leading lights from the online music and record industries today, as Napster CEO Hank Barry, MP3.com Chieftain michael robertson',390,400);">michael robertson',390,400);">Michael Robertson, Metallica's Napster-bashing drummer Lars Ulrich, Sony's new-media swami Fred Ehrlich and others testified before a Senate Committee.

The session was dubbed "The Future of Digital Music: Is There an Upside to Downloading?" The information-gathering expedition had no stated legislative agenda.

Even so, today's testimony could well play a role in the outcome of ongoing litigation against Napster by the RIAA and other plaintiffs.

Senators urged the music industry and Net companies to work out licensing agreements on their own to allow music to be distributed online. They cautioned that pressure could increase for Congress to step in if no agreements are reached.

"Fair and reasonable licensing needs to take place," said Committee Chair Orrin Hatch. "While I do not think that copyright owners have any general duty to license their products to others, a complete lack of licensing puts in question the labels' professed desire to be ubiquitous."

Barry's remarks spun the popularity of his company's file-swapping technology to claim credit not only for greater overall societal interest in music and record sales, but also enrollment spikes in school marching bands and "bugle corps" and the salvation of the fragile Mideast peace process.

Then he started blowing smoke.

"[Napster inventor] shawn fanning',390,400);">shawn fanning',390,400);">Shawn Fanning began a revolution that is returning the Internet to its roots," Barry testified. "Napster is an application that allows users to learn about others' tastes and share their MP3 files. If users choose to share files—and they are not required to—the application makes a list of those files, and sends the list and only the list to become part of the central Napster directory.

"Napster does not copy files," Barry added. "It does not provide the technology for copying files. Napster does not make MP3 files. It does not transfer files. Napster simply facilitates communication among people interested in music. It is a return to the original information-sharing approach of the Internet, allowing for a depth and a scale of information that is truly revolutionary.

"Napster is helping, not hurting, the recording and music publishing industry and artists," the investment banker and attorney claimed. "A chorus of studies shows that Napster users buy more records as a result of using Napster and that sampling music before buying is the most important reason people use Napster."

Naturally, dissenting organizations quote their own studies with contrary conclusions.

Barry concluded his remarks by warning the audience not to "brand as thieves" the file-sharing community's 20 million members, declaring, "Americans love music. Every time a new technology makes it easier for listeners to discover, enjoy and share music, the recording and music publishing industry benefits."

Ulrich's comments focused on his frequently stated claim that Napster use is equivalent to stealing, and that MP3-swapping deprives musicians and those they employ of revenue. "Remember, too, that my band, Metallica, is fortunate enough to make a great living from what it does," the drummer pointed out. "Most artists are barely earning a decent wage and need every source of revenue available to scrape by. Also keep in mind that the primary source of income for most songwriters is from the sale of records. Every time a Napster enthusiast downloads a song, it takes money from the pockets of all these members of the creative community."

Sony's Ehrlich added, "There is no longer any doubt that the digital revolution will radically change the way that artists create, and consumers enjoy, copyrighted works. We in the music industry think this is a great thing.

"The digital world opens up an almost unlimited number of opportunities for the public to experience music in ways that were never imagined before," he remarked. "Of course, these new opportunities pose great challenges both to traditional copyright law and to certain long-standing business models of how music is created and enjoyed. I am glad to say, however, that the music industry is ready to meet these challenges."

ALONG CAME JONES
Alamo adds a COO. (1/13a)
VISUAL ARTISTS HONOR INTERSCOPE
A feast for the senses (1/14a)
GRAMMYS IN APRIL?
(NO FOOLIN')
Vegas, baby. (1/12a)
COACHELLA LINEUP: HARRY, YE, BILLIE AND THE WHOLE THING
The poster has been printed. (1/13a)
UTA: A YEAR OF MOMENTUM
Agency reshuffles the deck. (1/18a)
I DON'T WANNA WORK
I just wanna bang on my drum all day.
I HAVE A HANGOVER
I like to call it "2021."
I DON'T WANNA HAVE A MEETING
My Zoom backgrounds are all outdated.
I MISS CHRISTMAS
When's the next holiday that involves eggnog?
 Email

 First Name

 Last Name

 Company

 Country
CAPTCHA code
Captcha: (type the characters above)