By Richard Menta- 4/17/00
Man, this is starting to get ugly. We're talking about the grass roots effort spurred by the Napster lawsuit which took an ugly turn over the last couple of days with metal band Metallica's announcement they are suing Napster AND America's universities for copyright infringement.
This weekend, both the Metallica web site and the Save Napster web site were hacked in retaliation by obsessed Napster fans. While their vandalism was misguided if not downright malicious, they nonetheless may reflect a bigger symptom. A passionate disgust that is simmering within the music buying public who are tired of being referred to as pirates and thieves for downloading MP3 files.
When we first heard about the lawsuit, our first thought was what a clever and opportunistic PR coup on Metallica's part this was. Jump into the most visible legal controversy hitting the music industry in years, sue hundreds of colleges in the process, throw in a little righteous indignation and watch the press clippings and TV news stories roll in.
This is not just cynical musing on our part. Music PR veterans are very aggressive when it comes to generating Press opportunities for the artists they represent. The more magazines and newspapers they get their named splashed upon the more records they sell. To most this is pure and simple economics.
In all fairness to the members of Metallica, they may truly feel threatened by the free trade of their songs among their fan base. These guys have certainly paid their dues, living in dive apartments and hotels as they struggled to develop that base. But why sue institutes of higher learning from Indiana State to USC other than to make the legal attack "more newsworthy". Even if their motives are sincere, their actions are suspicious.
Chad Paulson, the student who sparked this grassroots effort into life with his SaveNapster.com campaign, believes in their sincerity. On his web site he placed an open letter (reprinted here on MP3 Newswire) and took a balanced tone in this new twist to the Napster wars, searching for moderation and compromise.
In this letter, Chad criticized his beloved Napster for not being proactive in trying to address the issues where he felt there was a legitimate case for music piracy. He also criticized some of his own very supporters who spouted ridiculous statements such as "fight for your right to pirate".
For his mature decision to address both sides of the coin, Chad was branded a traitor. Not only by the court-weary Napster who expressed their disappointment in him, but by the very legions of digital music fans who actively joined him in voicing their anger against the banning of Napster on campus.
The result has been heated, culminating in a very quick vigilante retribution against both him and Metallica by the invasion of their web sites. An act that only served to further legitimize Paulson's and Metallica's positions.
This brings us to our point. If this attack is a perverted outgrowth of the overall feelings of the general buying public over this issue and if the perception of the major music labels at the end of all this are as the "bad guys". What will this mean the next time these same consumers walk into a record store?
Maybe nothing. They say all press is good, whether it is favorable or not. I just wonder if that is always true.
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