- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 4, 2001

Executives from embattled music file-sharing service Napster frustrated by record labels' unwillingness to negotiate with them yesterday asked Congress to support development of on-line music distribution.

Napster Chief Executive Hank Barry argued during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that on-line services should get the same rights as radio stations, which are licensed to play music in return for royalties.

"I believe it will take an act of Congress a change to the laws to provide a compulsory license for the transmission of music over the Internet," Mr. Barry told the committee. "The Internet needs a simple and comprehensive solution, similar to the one that allowed radio to succeed, not another decade of litigation."

Musicians Alanis Morissette and Don Henley also testified, saying they were open to efforts to design a new music-distribution model. But they believe that musicians should have more say in how their music gets to fans.

"As an artist, I have one goal: to continue to create and share my creative expressions with as many people as directly as possible," said Ms. Morissette. "If the intermediaries can help facilitate that connection, I welcome their involvement."

The hearing was the second Congress has held on on-line entertainment in the past year.

Groups representing consumers say Napster should be preserved because "the consumer has spoken loud and clear" by the service developing a following of nearly 70 million users. Technology companies agree, because those users provide a market for their products such as filters and fingerprint programs.

Distributors oppose Napster, arguing that it undercuts their product-delivery system and could potentially make it obsolete.

The strongest opposition to Napster comes from record labels such as AOL Time Warner and EMI Group that want to remain the primary sources for music access.

The two companies Monday announced a plan with German media giant Bertelsmann AG and on-line music provider RealNetworks to start a subscription music service called MusicNet. Leading labels Universal and Sony are also working on a combined catalog subscription service.

A federal court last month issued a pretrial injunction against Napster requiring it to stop letting users download copyright-protected music. Since then, some 300,000 songs have been blocked, causing a slight decline in Napster usage, according to digital entertainment research firm Webnoize.

The file-sharing software was written two years ago by Shawn Fanning, a 19-year-old college student at the time. Consumer support for Napster grew quickly, continuing even last year when the Recording Industry Association of America took it to court.

Yesterday's hearing was the culmination of 24 hours of events organized by Napster, but run mostly by volunteer fans. On Monday night, rapper and founder of Public Enemy, Chuck D, stood next to Mr. Fanning during a file-sharing forum downtown. Many of the 500 fans also attended yesterday's hearing.

Lou La Palombara, 23, and two of his friends took a 4 a.m. train from Philadelphia so that they could make the hearing.

"I'm missing school and work for it," said Mr. La Palombara, who got an autograph from Mr. Fanning. "There is nothing that can get me out of the house, but this is important enough."

Brothers Dan and Jack Siddoway, ages 16 and 12, respectively, from Spokane, Wash., also came to the hearing clad in Napster T-shirts that read on the back "Thanks for sharing."

"Our dad was totally for this. Whether he's for Napster, I'm not sure. But he said it was one of those enriching experiences," said Dan. "We came not knowing what to expect, but it's been nice to get the information in context, and know how it relates to what."

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and also a songwriter, said he is concerned that artists are not receiving royalties for on-line music. However, he also expressed hesitation in letting the labels deal with the issue themselves.

"We're going to have a lot more hearings," he said. "To ensure that our intellectual-property laws keep up with technology."


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