An Open Letter To: Metallica, Napster.

By Chad Paulson- 4/14/00


To: Metallica, Napster and all third parties respectfully involved.

I want to start out by whole-heartedly agreeing with the fact that art should be respected along with the standing and relative laws of copyright. Failure to abide by the law should lead to prosecution and further sentencing.

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There are many kids out there today that do not respect the fact that artists work long and hard to put out albums. They take quality music for granted and they don't fully realize that even though a musician may be popular and on the radio, doesn't necessarily mean that they are full of money. Even if they are, there is no excuse to break the law, and copyright infringement indeed is breaking the law. I also agree with the fact that something needs to be done about music piracy (on and off the internet) as well as internet piracy, and piracy as a whole, but I don't think Metallica is targeting the right people in doing so.

I started Students Against University Censorship first and foremost as a music fan. As a music fan, I have much respect for all artists in all genres, and I saw much potential with Napster.

Yet, at the same time I had many issues on how Napster was used as a haven for piracy, something that I abhor. After listening to ridiculous statements such as "fight for your right to pirate", I quickly added an education section to the website, making students aware of the responsibilities involved when using internet applications such as Napster. SAUC believes that using the MP3 file format responsibly is the only way a user can help maintain the integrity of the file format/ digital music revolution. We advocate users to adhere to all copyright laws. Also, we advise users who are in doubt of the legality of an MP3, to contact the Recording Industry Association of America. These excerpts were taken from our education section, which has been up for over a month now. Although SAUC feels that the current copyright laws are a bit too stringent, we don't advocate copyright violation in any way. SAUC is designed to lobby on behalf of free thinkers and change policy, not break it.

Howard King, Metallica's lawyer, has been quoted as saying "Our goal is to put Napster out of business in total and bury them,". "We are pushing universities to shut down Napster." I respect the fact that you want to fight internet and music piracy as a whole, but it sounds like you have a personal grudge with Napster, and for that I question the motives in your lawsuit, as well as the publicity generated in announcing it. I will admit that I have several issues with Napster myself, and for the first time I will be publicly addressing them.

As I said earlier, I did see a lot of potential in Napster as both a product and as a company, yet as I got to know more about the music business, as well as the silicon valley way of doing things, my views started to change. I definitely still see potential in Napster as a product, but no longer as a company. At least not as it currently exists.

Case in point, CEO Eileen Richardson. Take for instance her visit to the online show; Sam Donaldson at ABCNEWS.COM. You can click here for the show and see her son admit to downloading songs via Napster illegally, with intent to illegally infringe on an artists work. Add that to the fact that the company is knowingly facilitating the transmition of copyrighted material and they are making a profit from that without any crackdown on their user base and you have a company, in my opinion, which is not looking out for anyone else but themselves. They neither protect, nor crack down on their user base, and therefore they have gotten away with being the cozy middleman for almost a year now. In doing so, Napster is giving the MP3 format a bad name, and should back up it's comments, stating that the company's purpose is to promote and distribute new and local music. SAUC has only been active for 2 months, and we have promoted more independent music than Napster has in almost a year of existence.

I challenge Napster to take a stand on piracy. Not another meager disclaimer or press release stating that piracy is wrong, and that it is something that is out of the company's hands. I personally want to see a plan that explicates (in detail) what the company plans on doing about the rampant illegal use that has flooded this convenient service that they deem "a tool to the music industry". I for one use Napster 100% legally for distribution methods of local and non-copyrighted material, but I have grown to realize that over 90% of Napster's user base is using the product to commit one illegal act or another. If Napster refuses to cooperate with the request, SAUC will no longer focus or support the ongoing saga of the company and will focus on more important issues going on in the world of politics and music.

As for the parties involved in the lawsuit against the universities, please reconsider. The educational institutions involved were not consciously promoting piracy on campus, nor did they have anything to gain or profit from allegedly doing so. SAUC supports your suit against the end user and we would even like to extend our efforts in helping you fight piracy by exposing one unlawful Napster user at a time. Maybe that will wake the company up, as well as its unlawful user base.

Napster, the ball is in your court now, make a wise decision. Metallica, good luck in your valiant efforts in fighting music piracy as well as maintaining the integrity of art, just please reconsider your motivation as well as your target. Make the unlawful users pay the price, not the schools.


Chad Paulson
Students Against University Censorship

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