- The Washington Times - Monday, October 23, 2000

Virginia's public colleges and universities, despite legal pressure from music groups, will not prevent their students from using Napster on campus, the state's attorney general said last week.

His statement came in response to a letter from a Los Angeles law firm representing rock group Metallica and rapper Dr. Dre in a suit against the on-line music file sharing service for copyright infringement. The firm urged Virginia colleges to ban Napster.

"It would not be productive to direct Virginia's public institutions of higher education to block student access to Napster, especially since the law on the issue has not been clearly and definitely addressed by the courts," wrote Mark Earley, the attorney general who serves as legal counsel to the state's public institutions.

"The cyber marketplace should not be subjected to the interference you seek while litigation is pending on this very issue and no injunction has been issued," he added.

While Virginia would not go along with the request, some 34 percent of the nation's leading universities agreed with the law firm. Those institutions now prevent students from accessing Napster, according to Gartner Group, a Stamford, Conn.-based research firm.

The recent study by the group found that several high-profile institutions like Yale, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Kent State, New York University, Arizona State, Oregon State and the University of Texas prevent their students from using Napster while on campus.

Yale, for example, banned Napster because it got named as a defendant in Metallica and Dr. Dre's lawsuit. So did the University of South Carolina and Indiana University, which have now also banned the service.

But equally prestigious colleges like Princeton, Harvard, Penn State, Michigan State, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Columbia University, Cornell University, and locally, Johns Hopkins University have not turned their back on Napster.

Afraid of potential lawsuits, Marymount University in Arlington also has banned Napster.

"It's an open [legislative] question and we feel it's appropriate [to ban Napster] until the issue is settled," said Laurie Callahan, a spokeswoman for the university.

The only other Washington region school to prevent its students from access Napster is St. Johns College in Annapolis, which blocks the service through a fire wall, a technology that prevents users from accessing the Web site.

St. Johns, however, banned Napster not because of legal issue but because its computer framework couldn't handle the heavy traffic that results from downloading on-line music files, a college spokeswoman said.

Since it went on line last year, Napster has attracted over 30 million users without the help of advertising, making it the fastest growing Internet site ever. The software, which lets users search for and download music on line for free, was written by a 19-years-old college student.

"It's very popular. All on-line music is popular," said Brett Zongker, a sophomore at American University as well as news features editor at the college newspaper, the Eagle.

AU banned Napster for nine months this year, but not because the university was siding with Metallica or Dr. Dre or the Recording Industry Association of America, which is also suing Napster. Like St. Johns, AU's computer system couldn't handle the heavy traffic Napster created.

But the university upgraded its system, and students have been able to access Napster again since last month.

Four other D.C. institutions Georgetown University, George Washington University, the University of the District of Columbia and Catholic University have never tried to ban Napster.

"Some schools have their resident halls attached to their network and it's really hurting the education processes and uses of the network," said Peter Murray, vice provost for information technologies at Catholic. "So they look at doing something about students' access to the Internet. But we don't have that problem here."

Napster's lawsuit began in early October. Late in the summer its opponents won an injunction to shut it down, but the company appealed, won and remained on line.

"Once we know what is happening legally through the courts we can then follow that direction," Mr. Murray said.

Like Virginia, Maryland's public schools have left Napster alone.

"It hasn't become a problem to the point where university presidents are considering such a move," said Chris Hart, a public information officer for the University of Maryland System.

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