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Napsters survival depends on its credibility October 04 2000 1200 AM PT by Larry Magid Usually Im pretty good about making up my mind on issues but when it comes to Napster I find myself on the fence My heart says Go Napster and Stick it to those greedy record companies Hey this is power to the people My old buddy Yippee leader Abbie Hoffman author of Steal This Book and the subject of the recent Steal This Movie is probably cheering from the grave But my brain tells me that Napster is fundamentally flawed from an ethical legal and business point of view I thought about this as I sat at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals listening to attorneys for Napster and for the recording industry Napsters lawyer David Boies famous for successfully representing the Justice Department in its suit against Microsoft MSFT argued that Napsters activities are well within the scope of the copyright law He claimed that its fair use for individuals to share files as long as there is no compensation He further argued that Napster is just a directory service without the tools to distinguish between music that can legally be copied and those files that are infringing The opposing counsel as you might expect argued that the overwhelming majority of Napsters users were distributing copyrighted material and that the company is fundamentally a tool for stealing music The record companies involved in the case are Bertelsmanns BMG EMI Sony SNE Time Warners TWX Warner Music and Seagrams VO Universal Music As much as I love the idea of being able to download anything I want whenever I want I do think that the recording industry has a point While the ethical issues are somewhat cloudy the bottom line is that its just not right to give away the intellectual property of
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