Metallica Targets Napster Users

Targeting individuals for the first time in its case against the Napster MP3 browser, lawyers for heavy metal band Metallica said Monday that they had identified more than 335,000 individuals who allegedly swapped the band’s music on Napster in violation of copyright law.

A lawyer for Metallica said the individuals’ names would be delivered to Napster on Wednesday, along with a demand that the users be banned from Napster’s service immediately.

To avoid a backlash from fans, the band has scheduled an online chat about the Napster case for Tuesday night on Artistdirect.com.

Aiming at Individuals

The move to identify individuals is yet another escalation in the ongoing legal battle over music on the Net. In addition to the Metallica action, Napster has been sued by rap star Dr. Dre for Internet music piracy. In that suit, individual defendants were sued as “John Does,” and have yet to be named.

Also, Metallica’s suit against Napster initially took on three universities — Indiana University, the University of Southern California (USC), and Yale University — accusing them of allowing piracy to flourish on the high speed Internet connections at their schools by failing to block Napster. Yale University and Indiana University responded by blocking students’ access to Napster.

USC announced that it would allow students to access Napster “only for demonstrably legal purposes from designated university personal computers and under university supervision.” Metallica responded by dropping the suits against the schools.

Howard King, the lawyer representing both Metallica and Dr. Dre against Napster, said the decision to name individual users was an aggressive step in its battle against piracy.

“It certainly is going to show other artists what they can do to get their work out of Napster,” he said. King also said it could have a chilling effect on users, many of whom believed they were operating anonymously within Napster.

While Napster refused to comment on the development, the firm has said in the past it would block users that are guilty of sharing music in violation of copyright laws.

Closing In

The development comes on the heels of Friday’s federal court ruling that MP3.com violated copyright laws.

In a case brought by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) against MP3, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted RIAA’s motion for a summary judgment holding MP3 liable for copyright infringement. The court is now going to consider such remedies as an injunction shutting down the service and monetary damages.

MP3.com chairman Michael Robertson called the decision a “loss” for the recording industry. “New technologies for delivering music are here to stay, and the technology trend is moving in only one direction: forward,” he said.

Legitimate Internet Deal Signed

Meanwhile, a New York company has signed a deal with its second record label to provide music over the Internet. ClickRadio announced Monday that it will get access to all of the artists in the BMG Entertainment catalog, which includes best sellers such as Whitney Houston and Carlos Santana.

ClickRadio will allow users to download music over the Internet and store it on their hard drives. However, the company said it is using technology that will not allow the music to be transferred to MP3 format, as well as encryption to allow only authorized users to download songs.

ClickRadio is due to be launched in mid-May. The company said it hopes to announce partnerships with other labels soon.

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