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Metallica makes noise with lawsuit against universities, Napster

Heavy metal rock band Metallica has sued three universities and Napster — whose software lets users trade music files on the Internet — for allegedly encouraging students to pirate the band's music.

The schools named in the suit — which was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Thursday — are Yale University, the University of Southern California and Indiana University.


About 200 schools nationwide have banned Napster for copyright and network traffic reasons. The three schools named in the suit had not previously tried to prevent the use of the program on their respective networks, though Yale responded Friday by banning student use of the software.

Metallica's attorney, Howard King, said in an interview that the lawsuit was structured in a way that would allow the band to add more schools as they find them. "With one piece of paper, we could add Princeton," he said.

He noted, however, that he doubts any other schools will be added to the suit unless they commit a "flagrant copyright violation."

"Our ultimate goal is to put Napster out of business or have them modify it in some way so it doesn't infringe copyrights," King said. "We also want to stop universities from facilitating the use of Napster and have students and other users understand they're stealing material from artists they like."

University General Counsel Howard Ende said, "It's certainly possible [that we'll be sued], but I don't anticipate it."

The University, though not named in the suit, allows students to gain access to Napster through Dormnet. CIT spokeswoman Rita Saltz said she does not know whether the University's stance on Napster will change.


She added, however, that in the past the University has been "scrupulous in discouraging not only the type of piracy about which Metallica's suit revolves, but also in discouraging any vestige of intellectual dishonesty."

Gail Fine, Metallica's manager, said in an interview that the suit is justified. "[Napster is] stealing our copyright, and stealing our intellectual property without our permission," she said.

"We own certain copyrights. We have the right to do with them what we see fit," Fine added.

In a news release on Metallica's official Website, Lars Ulrich, the band's drummer, denounced the use of Napster. "It is . . . sickening to know that our art is being traded like a commodity rather than the art that it is," he said.

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Saltz questioned the validity of the lawsuit. "Is this a clear cut thing? Is Napster something that can only be used illegally? I don't think so," she said.

Acting Napster chief executive officer Eileen Richardson said in a statement that she was concerned about the implications of the lawsuit. "It has never been Napster's intention to belittle the importance of artistic production," she said. "Nevertheless, technological advances over the last several years are restructuring the entertainment business."

Napster counsel Laurence Pulgram said in a statement that he believes the charges brought by Metallica are unfounded. "The complaint reads like it was written to inflame the press and intimidate universities rather than to present legal issues to the court," he said. "We are prepared to defend the suit vigorously if the plaintiffs insist on proceeding in this manner."

King estimated that the band is owed more than $10 million in damages.

Despite the potential monetary gain a favorable ruling would mean for the band, King said the case "will hopefully set a precedent for the future with respect to ongoing infringements. If three universities are enough to set a precedent, that's fine."

Officials from Yale and USC were unavailable for comment yesterday.