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Napster Gets a Reprieve from the Law
By Moses Avalon
(more articles from this author)
2001-03-12
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Jumping on the "bash and sue Napster" bandwagon, this month NARAS (the people who bring you the Grammys) and the Consumer Electronics Association have joined the mission to block out independent use of the internet to transfer files containing copyrighted material. Is there a lawyer out there who isn't working on the Napster issue? Isn't there anyone else worth suing?

Many reporters are reeling with the 9th Circuit Court decision (which is not really a decision at all) to tell Napster to shut its "doors" if it can not stop the dissemination of protected material. But a reality that many seem to be pathologically ignoring is that, at the same time, the decision incorporated a requirement from record labels to provide a detailed list of all masters that are being infringed upon. This task could take them well into the next century. So it could be a draw after all. Napster will probably publish the list and enthusiastic "sharers" will scrutinize it for exceptions, like the 1971 bootleg Grateful Dead tour version of "Trucking," for example. (Just an example. I have no actual knowledge that this was omitted form the list.)

Obscure versions and Dyslexic title alterations, will undoubtedly be the name of the game as the long arm of the law closes the Napster gap. Meanwhile, other file sharing services continue to go about their business as if nothing has happened.

It's far from over for the saga of this like $20,000,000 company that has offered $150,000,000 a year to majors for the rights to their material. A laughable offer. Where are they going to get this cash? No one seems to want to talk about that.

Seizing an opportunity to cash in, the Internet Lawyers Group in San Francisco is planning a class action suit against Napster on behalf of independent artists. I thought these were the ones who were benefiting from the service. I mean, Napster allowed these guys to promote themselves for pennies, how they are going to establish a claim should prove interesting. But Napster will likely pay out some paltry sum to the class. Before you get on your altruistic bandwagon, remember that, in most class action suits, the lawyers get about a third of the booty.


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