Senate committee to hear more on Napster

By Margret Johnston, InfoWorld |  Business

THE U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday to discuss Napster and its battle with the recording industry over the free swapping of digital music files over the Internet.

Less than a month after Napster was ordered to block copyrighted materials from its service, the committee will hear another round of testimony in the emotional debate from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), and the CEOs of Napster and MP3.com. At least two artists, Don Henley and Ted Nugent, also are expected to testify.

The Senate Judiciary Committee got its last public update on the file sharing debate in July. Tuesday's hearing was called last month by the committee chairman, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, to discuss the future of Napster and other digital media companies. It will be an informational hearing looking at music and movie copyright issues, but testimony might take in more technical aspects of file sharing and blocking, a spokeswoman for Hatch said Monday.

The debate also might include some heated testimony following several recent developments involving Napster, which last year was sued by the major record labels over alleged copyright infringement. In early March U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel in San Francisco issued a modified injunction putting the onus of identifying copyright infringements on the record labels, but still ordering Napster to remove unauthorized songs within three days after copyright holders supply details about songs being pirated.

Patel issued the injunction at the direction of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which found that Napster aids in the massive infringement of record labels' copyrights. The ruling was seen as a partial reprieve for Napster, which had said that if Patel adopted remedies requested by the recording industry, it would effectively be shut down.

In more recent documents filed with the court, San Mateo, Calif.-based Napster has complained that it has had difficulty complying with the injunction and has said the record labels have not upheld their end of the injunction. The RIAA has responded angrily that Napster has failed to abide by Patel's ruling.

How lawmakers have reacted to the fracas will be one of the gaps filled in on Tuesday. At last July's hearing, committee members showed little inclination toward writing new copyright laws and instead urged the parties to work out a settlement.

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