“I bought every Metallica cd, the box set ($90!), the DVD's, etc. I will *NEVER* buy another Metallica item ever again. This is my protest against a band that are a bunch of sellouts."
—From a 4/14 post on slashdot
Metallica-Napster Suit Ignites A Verbal Firestorm

The lawsuit filed by Metallica against Napster and three universities could be the beginning of a series of artist actions against the music Web site and file-sharing software distributor. It could also blow up in the band's faces.

Metallica manager Cliff Burnstein told Billboard that more than 100 tracks were detected on Napster, including five versions of the unreleased single, “I Disappear,” from the upcoming soundtrack to “Mission: Impossible 2.” Burnstein says the band wanted to assume a “leadership” role in taking legal action against Internet piracy. “We can afford to do this,” he says, “but I do think others will follow in our footsteps.”

Napster CEO Eileen Richardson says in a statement, “We regret that the band's management saw fit to issue a press release—and to file a lawsuit—without even attempting to contact Napster. Many bands who have approached us learned about Napster and how to leverage what we offer, understand the value of what we do. But if these people insist on turning it over to the lawyers, we'll defend the case on that turf.”

In another statement, Napster counsel Laurence Pulgram says, “This action raises the same copyright issues as the lawsuit filed against Napster by the recording industry. The complaint reads like it was written to inflame the press and intimidate universities rather than to present legal issues to the court.”

In a letter sent to Metallica, Chris Paulson, founder of Students Against University Censorship, states that kids these days “take quality music for granted, and they don't fully realize that even though a musician may be popular and on the radio doesn't necessarily mean that they are full of money. Even if they are, there is no excuse to break the law, and copyright infringement indeed is breaking the law...but I don't think Metallica is targeting the right people in doing so. I started Students Against University Censorship first and foremost as a music fan…. After listening to ridiculous statements such as ‘Fight for your right to pirate,' I quickly added an education section to the website, making students aware of the responsibilities involved when using Internet applications such as Napster. SAUC believes that using the MP3 file format responsibly is the only way a user can help maintain the integrity of the file-format/digital-music revolution….”

Metallica's suit is substantially different from the RIAA suit against Napster because it leaves the door open for the band to sue individuals who used Napster to trade Metallica files. And many of these potential plaintiffs are taking it personally.

“I bought every Metallica cd, the box set ($90!), the DVD's, etc. I will *NEVER* buy another Metallica item ever again. This is my protest against a band that are a bunch of sell outs :( Fuck Metallica, Fuck RIAA, Fuck DMCA, Fuck MPAA, etc etc. We must all join together in this if we are to get the benefits.”

These lines appeared on slashdot's volatile thread “Napster, Gnutella, Lawsuits, Bans & More,” which has generated more than 600 posts since its initiation Friday morning. Said thread got the attention of highbrow geek group the pho list, which is where we found out about it. Here's one from a Napsterphile:

“The suit says students who use Napster ‘exhibit the moral fiber of common looters.' How much more of a generalization could you make? This is like saying ‘everyone who owns a crowbar is breaking into someones house every night.' There *ARE* people who use Napster for legit reasons. There *IS* a lot of stuff on Napster that you can't FIND anywhere else, because Napster is the only place it's distributed. There are plenty of uses for Napster, trading copyrighted songs is just one of them.” [Ed note: By the way, (sic). Just wanted to make sure you knew we were paying attention.]

Other posts supported Metallica's stand: “When exactly did it change from something people did furtively on IRC to an absolute right of the people to have whatever they want, whenever they want? I guess when programs like Napster make it possible for any clueless newbie on cable or University ethernet to serve up mp3s to the masses, it becomes acceptable? Seriously, just because it's easy to steal doesn't make it rightat least have the decency to hide what you're doing, people. The quote from Lars comparing these people to looters was quite appropriate.”

Rights advocates logged on and logged in: “I really don't understand why everyone is so upset about this. My opinion of MP3s aside, Metallica is being stolen from, thanks to Napster. And while I do think they're going after the wrong people, the carrier instead of the people doing the sharing, they have every right to do what they are doing.”

So did conspiracy theorists (always a lively crowd): “I can't share files? Does this mean I can't share data?!? Isn't that exactly the service they're trying to sell here? Hello?!?”

One poster felt the issue was ultimately about pipes, not rights: “Napster and GNUtella really use up ALL the bandwidth, and the ISP is suddenly faced with a overload in bandwidth. Suddenly they are forced to make good on their bandwidth promises.”

Howzat for catching the zeitgeist? This may well turn out to be a defining moment for our pesky new century. And You Are There.

Friday morning, cybervandals left a message on the homepage of Metallica's official site, http://www.metallica.com/. It read, "LEAVE NAPSTER ALONE."

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