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Tuesday, 18 July, 2000, 13:51 GMT 14:51 UK
MP3 fans target politicians
napster on trial
Napster has over 20 million users
Two US senators have been deluged with over 70,000 e-mails from fans of digital music swapping software and websites.

Napster and the website urged users to target members of the Senate's judiciary committee which currently considering music industry calls to change intellectual property laws.

The companies are being sued by the recording industry for copyright infringement, and urged fans to take action after rock group Metallica accused them of "hijacking" their music.

"We need your help to get this message to Congress as soon as possible," Napster chief executive Hank Barry wrote in a letter posted on Friday on the company's website.

MP3 software and websites enable users to swap songs over the internet without copyright payments to artists or music companies.

'Large consumer base'

But members of the Senate Committee have already indicated their reluctance to enact any new legislation.

Chuck D
Napster fan: Public Enemy's Chuck D
They are concerned that laws designed to protect intellectual property could deter the development of new technologies.

Committee chairman Orrin Hatch's spokeswoman Jeanne Lopatto said he had acknowledged the "large consumer base" for the software.

Mr Hatch had received over 30,000 e-mails on the issue by Monday.

"There were thousands from internet music users, mostly thanking the senators and others expressing concern," she said.

Fellow senator Patrick Leahy, known as a strong supporter of freedom on the Internet, had received over 40,000 e-mails by Monday.

"Neither senator has taken any sides in this dispute so far," Mr Leahy's spokesman said.

During the hearing last week, Napster fans were encouraged when Mr Leahy said, "Let's not strangle the baby in the crib. Let's make it work."

'Not violating copyrights'

Napster, which claims to have over 20 million users, argues its users are not violating copyrights by trading songs for free because they share files for non-commercial use. site Accused of copyright infringement
But the the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) say that wholesale copying and distribution of copyrighted works would not be defended by any court.

The RIAA, which represents companies like Universal Music, BMG, Sony Music, Warner Music Group and EMI, first sued Napster for copyright infringement in December.

Rock band Metallica and hip hop star Dr Dre are also suing Napster for copyright infringement, while a number of musicians have joined a high-profile campaign against music piracy on the web in general, including The Corrs, Madonna and Garth Brooks.

However, rap act Public Enemy and rock band Limp Bizkit have backed Napster in its court battle.

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18 Jul 00 | Entertainment
EMI launches digital sales
13 Jul 00 | Entertainment
Corrs join net piracy fight
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