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Saturday, 17 June, 2000, 11:12 GMT 12:12 UK
Napster hires legal big gun

Napster has hired one of the best known antitrust lawyers in the US and a key figure in the Microsoft case for its legal battle with the record industry.

The popular internet music-sharing service has taken on board attorney David Boies to defend Napster against breach of copyright suits brought by the US music recording industry.

Mr Boies was star attorney for the US Government during the recent Microsoft antitrust case.

He made his name in the 1970s when he successfully defended IBM against charges of monopoly.

Legal challenge

The powerful Recording Industry Association of America, (RIAA), is mounting a legal effort to halt Napster's customers from widespread unauthorised copying and disseminating of their artists' recordings.

Napster is causing irreparable harm to plaintiffs and the entire music industry

In December it brought a legal suit against Napster, accusing it of copyright infringement and related state law violations.

This week the record industry stepped up the pressure, requesting an injunction to shut down Napster.

It maintains the company is "causing irreparable harm to plaintiffs and the entire music industry" by allowing Internet users to download music for free instead of buying it.

An estimated 10 million people use the Napster system. The music industry says that so many copies of its music recordings are being sent to users over the system that it is hurting compact disc sales.

Napster argues it is merely providing the technology and cannot be held responsible for what its users do online.

Important issues

In a statement, Mr Boies said in a statement the case filed against Napster raised important issues for all users of the internet regarding new online media and user privacy.

Napster respects copyrights. It is committed to protecting the interests of artists and other rights holders.

Hank Barry, Napster CEO
He said there were "important questions as to the extent to which internet directories will remain free to permit individual users to use a directory to communicate and, in some cases, to share files without monitoring and regulating what those users do."

Recently Napster has been downplaying the use of unauthorised recordings, playing up instead the benefits to unsigned musicians.

"Napster respects copyrights," said Hank Barry, chief executive officer of Napster, saying the company is "committed to protecting the interests of artists and other rights holders."

The Napster case is expected to be heard in US District Court in San Francisco late next month.

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