Gentle reminder: Q fully supports the DeepLeap MetaInfo panel, so if you’re a DeepLeap user, you’ve got access to the search engine, site map, contact page, and home page all at the bottom of your DeepLeap popup window.

I’m fairly disgusted that when John Rocker came into the Atlanta Braves game last night, he got a standing ovation, and fans even held up signs that read “Rocker for President.” Then again, this is a state that still has the Confederate flag incorporated into its state flag, so tolerance can hardly be expected.

A Connecticut couple is suing Publisher’s Clearing House for $21 million, claiming that they received many envelopes in the mail saying that they had actually won the sweepstakes, and even got all dressed up on Super Bowl Sunday to wait for the van and TV cameras to pull up and give them the big fake check. When it didn’t show up, apparently the emotional distress was too much to bear, and a lawsuit was the only answer.

On the other side of the lawsuit coin, I actually agree with the lawsuit filed by Metallica, and the apparently impending lawsuit from Dr. Dre, against Napster for helping distribute their copyrighted works. While people may not agree with the amount charged by major record labels for CDs and tapes, I don’t agree with how much a new BMW Z3 costs, but I don’t have the right to steal one because of that belief. Napster is a content provider, and once they know that a party is providing copyrighted and illegal content, they have to pull it down, just like AOL or EarthLink does.

David Adams has started a discussion on whether or not the Napster lawsuits should include the schools that provide Internet access to students.


I can see them suing Napster, but should they be able to sue the universities, too? IIRC, they’re also suing Yale, Indiana U, and USC for not blocking Napster. Are they really liable to Metallica for the band’s imagined losses? To me, that part of the lawsuit seems more like a ploy to sue someone who might actually have the cash to pay a judgement.

• Posted by: David Adams on Apr 19, 2000, 3:09 PM

I dunno — while I haven’t firmed up my own opinion on whether or not the universities should be held liable, there’s actually some very logical reasoning behind including them in the suit.

Imagine that you’re EarthLink, and I’m a customer of yours, using you for my dialup access. I put up a webserver, and on that webserver, I provide an MPEG of the entire Star Wars episode one movie. LucasFilms calls you, and says that one of your customers is violating their trademark and providing access to their movie. As far as I understand, if you don’t revoke my access and shut down my webserver, then you are just as liable as I am for the violating of copyright, and are just as exposed to lawsuit as I am.

Now, the universities are all in the same position as EarthLink — they are all internet service providers, for their students. If students then use that internet service to provide access to copyrighted material (material that it is illegal to distribute unless you are the copyright owner), and you know about it, then it is your job to prevent them from doing so.

In this situation, Sprint wouldn’t shut down their clients’ access to the Napster network, they would shut down their clients’ access to the Internet. In the case of the universities, they seem to not want to do that, probably because the networks at schools aren’t set up the same — it’s not like these schools could just disable a login and the students’ computers would be shut out from the network.

Think of it this way: if a Columbia student were providing access to research documents that were confidential property of a Columbia engineering lab, you could be sure that Columbia would cut off that student’s server. They just don’t want to treat the Napster stuff the same way, and they may end up having to pay for that.

• Posted by: Jason Levine on Apr 19, 2000, 3:37 PM

Assume for a moment that yes, Napster should be held responsible. After that, heck, hold the universities responsible. And the states that helped fund the Internet connections for the Universities too, I don’t much care. (Note once you open that door, there’s no logical place to stop, but that’s a seperate point.)

How is Napster-the-company supposed to “remove” all Metallica files from their service? They aren’t serving the files, in fact they don’t serve any files at all. They don’t host the space where people put the MP3s. They only control the search server and while Napster can block all instances of “Metallica”… how are they going to respond when users start calling things “acillateM”, “Mtllca”, and any of thousands of other variations on the name? It’s not like they can reach onto people’s hard drives and delete the offending MP3s. It’s not like they really have control over the service.

Oh, and some of those MP3s are perfectly legit, just illegal to download. Some of them are backed up with Metallica albums. How can they distinguish those, or how will they justify punishing innocent people?

There is a part of me who agrees in some sense, but where this could end up going if it succeeds terrrifies me.

• Posted by: Jeremy Bowers on Apr 19, 2000, 5:08 PM

They can respond by shutting down the search server until they have some reasonable method to prevent the distribution of copyrighted works. And the universities can just shut off inbound access to any computer that they find participating in Napster — and, I’m willing to bet that we’re about to see this start happening.

And as for the MP3s being “legit, just illegal to download” — is Napster anything BUT a sharing service? Unless I misunderstand, Metallica isn’t suing due to the creation of the MP3s, they’re suing because of their distribution. If the people are truly innocent of copyright violation, then the MP3s aren’t indexed in their copy of Napster, they’re whiled away in a backup somewhere.

Again, this all hinges on the fact that feeling like you have some right to something doesn’t translate into having that right. Like it or not, the bands and music companies own rights to that music, and devising a method to get around that on a mass scale isn’t permissible.

• Posted by: Jason Levine on Apr 20, 2000, 9:25 AM

They can respond by shutting down the search server until they have some reasonable method to prevent the distribution of copyrighted works.

If by “reasonable” you mean “reasonably effective”, the only thing that Napster could do would be download each MP3 and examine it individually for copyright compliancy. You absolutely cannot trust the name of the file or the included information (which any half-way decent player allows you to completely modify).

When I used the program and guestimated the amount of time it would take to each MP3 that was online (assuming 1MB=1minute) the answer came out to approx 4.5 thousand years. There is some duplication but you can’t be sure.

I don’t think that “something should be done first” is a legit answer, because I don’t think there is a “something” that can save Napster. Based on your statements and the lack of a reasonable method of protection, I’m perfectly comfortable with claiming that perhaps Napster has no right to exist at all. It would not be the first time I’ve said that about a service.

It really is little more then a systematic way to perform illegal activities, even though it is as neutral as any other tool in theory. My discomfort comes from the courts getting a hold of this and just how far it can be twisted. Shutting down Napster-the-service because of the overwhelmingly illegal activity I’m OK with. Holding Napster-the-company liable for that activity gives me the heebie-jeebies.

From what I’ve seen, Napster was originally intended as a replacement for, which distributes perfectly legal MP3s that bands give to the site for that express purpose in the hopes that somebody will see them and either sign them (if they are a label), or at least buy a CD of the song (if they are a normal person). The ability to share your MP3s with others was originally a secondary feature. They didn’t set out from day one to violate every acoustical copyright on the planet.

Of course, the sequel is already on the horizon… Gnutella and friends. Not only is there no way to make sure the content is legal, there’s no way to filter the service in the long-term either. After a few more iterations the only thing that will stop somebody from using Gnutella in a big way is bandwidth caps, and that’s not exactly a targetted solution. By the time the developers get done encrypting the stream, compressing the stream, bouncing around ports and switching off protocols on a whim, there will be no fingerprint that you can look for to block Gnutella. (Napster’s already really hard and all Napster can do is switch ports at will.)

And the universities can just shut off inbound access to any computer that they find participating in Napster — and, I’m willing to bet that we’re about to see this start happening.

Some have done it, albiet nobody has been able to do it 100%, they’ve just blocked the less sophisticated users and those without sophisticated friends.

My university’s network director, much to my shock and the shock of others, has publically committed to not trying shut down Napster… “just don’t download illegal MP3s”. I suspect that if these lawsuits go through, his tune may change.

Again, this all hinges on the fact that feeling like you have some right to something doesn’t translate into having that right.

Heh heh, just try explaining that on Slashdot. I’ve never been moderated down so fast in my life.

• Posted by: Jeremy Bowers on Apr 20, 2000, 12:30 PM
Please note that comments automatically close after 60 days; the comment spammers love to use the older, rarely-viewed pages to work their magic. If comments are closed and you want to let me know something, feel free to use the contact page!