US presidential candidates debate Napster online

The Napster debate managed to cross over into an online US presidential debate on Tuesday.

          The Napster debate managed to cross over into an online US presidential debate on Tuesday, when four candidates responded to a question posted to the "rolling cyber debate" on the political Web site Web White & Blue.

          Neither Al Gore nor George W. Bush gave a clear-cut answer to the question posted to the site, which was: "In light of the recent Napster case, what are your views on Internet file-sharing and the protection of intellectual property online? Where would your administration draw the line regarding freedom to access content versus copyright infringement?"

          The Internet-based music file sharing service, Napster Inc. and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) have been engaged in an ongoing legal battle over copyright infringement and began oral arguments on Oct. 2 before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco.

          Democratic Presidential candidate Gore compared the controversy surrounding Napster to the introduction of radio, which was seen at the time as a similar threat to songwriters. He called for a compromise between the two sides, that would allow "Napster-type technologies to flourish," but "not take away the artist's intellectual property."

          Bush, the Republican candidate, wouldn't comment specifically on the Napster case because it was a pending legal matter, but merely made similar statements without mentioning the software by name. According to Bush, we must "find a way to apply our copyright laws to ensure that artists, writers and creators can earn a profit from their creation," while also "adapting to and utilising new technologies to deliver media to consumers."

          Two lesser known candidates also answered the question, with John Hagelin, the candidate for the Natural Law Party, taking the most radical stance on the subject. "We believe that the entertainment industry should make an all-out effort to find new ways to utilise Napster and similar services on a 'pay per view' basis," he said, noting that sales of CDs have continued to rise even with the availability of Napster.

          Howard Philips from the Constitution Party, started his argument by pointing out that the US Constitution does not grant the federal government authority in patents and copyrights. He did, however, state concerns over infringement and the right of private property in connection with Napster.

          The ongoing cyber debate will continue until election day, Nov. 7, on the Web site. Web White and Blue is a nonpartisan consortium of 17 Web sites, including America Online Inc., Yahoo Inc., and Microsoft Corp.'s MSN.

          Web White and Blue can be found online at http://www.webwhiteblue.org/.

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