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Tuesday, 3 April, 2001, 18:37 GMT 19:37 UK
Napster boss calls for net licence
Napster founder Shawn Fanning at a pro-Napster rally AFP
Napster founder Shawn Fanning at a rally on Monday
Napster chief executive Hank Barry has urged the US Congress to pass a law requiring record labels to make music easily available on the internet.

Mr Barry told a Senate hearing on online entertainment that a "compulsory licence" would direct payments to artists and other copyright holders, in the same way licences for radio broadcasts do.

Napster, a free online song-swapping service, has been legally forced to block access to copyrighted material - but its future and that of digital distribution as a whole is uncertain.

Napster CEO Hank Barry AP
Licence demand: Napster's Hank Barry
"Licensed music should now be available over the internet as it is over the radio," he said.

"I strongly believe such a change is necessary, an important step for the internet and that it will be good for artists, listeners and businesses."

Major record labels, led by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), claim that Napster is simply a tool for music piracy.

'Fair and profitable'

But Hank Barry insisted that Napster users would be willing to pay to allow musicians to receive royalties, and said the labels had refused to negotiate a deal.

"The question today is what does it take to make music on the internet a fair and profitable business," he said.

"I believe it will take an act of Congress - a change to the laws to provide a compulsory licence for the transmission of music over the internet.


The internet needs a simple and comprehensive solution, not another decade of litigation

Hank Barry, Napster
"The internet needs a simple and comprehensive solution, similar to the one that allowed radio to succeed, not another decade of litigation."

Mr Barry received some support from musician Don Henley, who said he was not opposed to Napster if artists were paid for their music.

"The recording industry has fiddled on the sidelines while the digital revolution went on without them," he said.

The Eagles drummer, who is co-founder of the Recording Artists Coalition, which campaigns for artists' rights, added that labels did not always have artists' best interests at heart.

Public Enemy's Chuck D AP
Public Enemy's Chuck D: Napster fan
He said Mr Barry's suggestion of compulsory licensing should only be considered "as a last resort" if negotiations failed.

'Yesterday's news'

But the RIAA's chief executive Hilary Rosen hit back, saying the music industry was already moving online.

"Napster was exciting, but giving away someone else's music without their permission is yesterday's news," she said.

"Online entertainment isn't coming soon - it's here and it's getting better every day."

On Monday, AOL Time Warner, EMI and Bertlesmann teamed up to create MusicNet, an independent site for online music subscriptions.

Sony and Vivendi Universal have also teamed up to create Duet.

The Senate committee's chairman, Senator Orrin Hatch, said he was encouraged by the MusicNet announcement because it was "an entity not controlled by the music labels".

He said lawmakers were watching developments "to ensure our intellectual property laws keep up with technology".


Napster was exciting, but giving away someone else's music without their permission is yesterday's news

Hilary Rosen, RIAA
Rapper Chuck D and Napster founder Shawn Fanning spoke at a pro-Napster forum during the build-up to the hearing, which was arranged by Senator Hatch.

"I believe that artists must be compensated for their creativity," Fanning said. "And I believe that Napster, as it currently operates, threatens that principle."

But he says that if Napster is simply shut, fans may turn to unregulated Napster clones like Gnutella and Freenet.

"Such a development would further undermine the position of copyright law online and the position of artists in the new digital world that the internet is developing," he said.

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See also:

03 Apr 01 | Americas
Napster rallies its troops
03 Apr 01 | Music
Prince teams up with Napster
02 Apr 01 | Business
Music giants form Napster rival
06 Jun 00 | Entertainment
MP3: A novice's guide
29 Mar 01 | New Media
Metallica join new Napster attack
24 Mar 01 | Business
Song blocking hits Napster usage
22 Mar 01 | Business
Napster faces new legal challenge
12 Mar 01 | Sci/Tech
Coders prepare son of Napster
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