Weighing in on Napster Debate

Published August 29th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT
Al Bawaba
Al Bawaba

Trade groups representing some technology giants filed briefs on Monday to a federal appeals court expressing concerns about an injunction issued last month by a US District court against song-swap company Napster Inc, reported ABC online. 

“About six friend-of-the court briefs are being filed. These groups had until the end of today,” a spokeswoman for controversial song-swap company Napster Inc. said Monday. She added that several groups had also filed briefs late last week.  

The Recording Industry Association of America’s (RIAA) landmark lawsuit against Napster is on a fast legal track since the appeals court last month granted Napster a last-minute reprieve by staying U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Patel’s injunction order against the service with over 20 million users. 

According to Fox, while the reprieve was seen as a blow to the recording industry, many lawyers say the law is on the industry’s side.  


But in filing these “friend-of-the-court” briefs, several groups like the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), which represents technology giants like AT&T Corp., Oracle Corp. and Yahoo! Inc., said the courts need to reinterpret and revise some of the models for intellectual property protection. 

“There is a lot of need for intellectual property protection, but we have many instances in the industry where people are trying to overprotect to the disadvantage of the public and to legitimate businesses trying to compete,” Ed Black, president of the CCIA, told Reuters on Monday. 

Redwood City, Calif.-based Napster’s service lets fans swap songs for free by trading MP3 files, a compression format that turns music on compact discs into small computer files. 

The RIAA, which represents big record companies, like Seagram Co. Ltd.’s Universal Music, Bertelsmann AG’s BMG, Sony Corp.’s Sony Music and Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Music Group and EMI, has claimed that Napster facilitates piracy. 

The CCIA said it joined with others in the technology community in filing two amicus curiae briefs in the Napster case before the Federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. CCIA filed two briefs, one jointly with the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and the Digital Future Coalition (DFC), Black said.  


While not taking a position on Napster’s potential liability as a contributory or vicarious copyright infringer, the briefs argue that the lower District Court misapplied and misinterpreted several key provisions of Federal copyright law and Supreme Court precedent, the CCIA said in a release issued Friday. 

“There is tremendous public value in people having reasonable access to a wide range of products and technology,” Black said. 

Napster on August 18 asked the appeals court to overturn Patel’s July 26 order that Napster stop users from trading copyrighted songs, virtually pulling the plug on the service. 

The briefs by several coalitions expressed concerns the ruling could limit users’ rights to enjoy music and media and could impose copyright policing responsibilities on Internet service providers. 

“We are hopeful that the Ninth Circuit will recognize the errors in the District Court’s reasoning and send the case back for further consideration,” Black said. 

The RIAA’s response to Napster’s legal brief filed on August 18 is due Sept. 8. The RIAA had no immediate comment on Monday regarding the briefs filed in support to Napster. Napster is due to file a reply on Sept. 12. After that, the appeals court will schedule a second hearing on the RIAA’s motion for a preliminary injunction-Albawaba.com.  

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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