Web Music Debate Goes To Senate

Wednesday, July 12th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich — an outspoken critic of Internet music sharing — told a Senate committee Tuesday that government intervention is needed to stop what he called Internet music ``piracy.''

``I don't think there is a way this can be worked out without your involvement,'' said Ulrich, whose band led the charge against Napster Inc., whose service allows computer users to make perfect copies of digital recordings over the Internet.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah — a songwriter himself — asked musicians, record company representatives and Internet company executives to explain the industry's fight with companies like Napster and Gnutella, a similar service.

``I think we must let the market work and let history be our guide in not squashing this technology too soon,'' said Hank Barry, CEO of San Mateo, Calif.-based Napster. Barry noted that copyright complaints had been worked out with the arrival of radio, television and satellite television.

Barry was backed up by a former member of the folk rock group the Byrds.

``I think the market will sort itself out,'' said Roger McGuinn, who uses the Internet to promote his current solo career.

Hatch, along with Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., say they are still trying to decide whether government intervention is truly necessary.

``We must protect the rights of the creator,'' Hatch said. ``But we cannot, in the name of copyright, unduly burden consumers and the promising technology the Internet presents to all of us.''

Metallica and rapper Dr. Dre have been the artists most critical of Internet music ``duplication,'' and the recording industry has sued to stop companies like Napster and MP3.com, which already has settled some of the lawsuits against it.

Napster lets users swap songs for free by trading MP3 files, a compression format that turns music on compact discs into small computer files.

Free duplication means that artists won't get paid for their work, Ulrich said. ``Napster hijacked our music without asking,'' he said. ``They never sought our permission, our catalog of music simply became available as free downloads on the Napster system.''

However, Barry said Napster users who ``sample'' free music ultimately help artists by going out and buying music.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said the time would not be far off when whole books and movies are being duplicated over the Internet using companies like Napster without compensation to movie companies and authors,

But Barry said the same things had been said about compact discs, video cassette recorders, double deck tape recorders and other technology.

``The terrible things that have been prophesied have never come,'' he said.

Gnutella software developer Gene Kan said the software community — the ``pirates,'' he admitted — would not be stopped by mandating encryption, setting up licensing fees or trying to mandate that people identify themselves online.

He also pointed out that people like downloading music. ``We just infringed rights now, and everybody just chuckled about it,'' he said.

Hatch had downloaded a song from the rock band Creed using Gnutella for the audience to listen to while he and Leahy left for a Senate vote.

``I don't think we infringed rights,'' Hatch retorted. ``It was for education and governmental purposes.''


On the Net:

Senate Judiciary Committee: http://www.senate.gov/(tilda)judiciary/

Napster, Inc.: http://www.napster.com

MP3.com: http://www.MP3.com

Gnutella: http://gnutella.wego.com/

Recording Industry Association of America: http://www.riaa.com