US universities refuse to ban Napster

Several major US universities announced this week that, despite a request from the attorney representing anti-Napster artists Dr. Dre and Metallica, they will not restrict their students' access to the popular music-swapping service Napster.

          Several major US universities announced this week that, despite a request from the attorney representing anti-Napster artists Dr. Dre and Metallica, they will not restrict their students' access to the popular music-swapping service Napster.

          Princeton University, Duke University, the University of North Carolina, the University of California at Berkeley, the Georgia Institute of Technology, University of California at Los Angeles, the University of Michigan and Purdue University, among others, all said this week that despite the request of Howard King, the lawyer representing the artists, they would continue to allow their students to use the embattled MP3-sharing service.

          King sent a letter to a number of universities in early September asking them to ban Napster use on their campuses charging that it enables music piracy. These universities included Harvard, Columbia University, Stanford, the Universities of Virginia, Florida, and Pennsylvania, and around 20 others. In an April lawsuit filed by King, Yale University, Indiana University and the University of Southern California were named as defendants.

          In refusing to ban Napster, despite the implied threat of a lawsuit, many U.S. universities cited their concerns over censorship and academic freedom. In a written statement, Duke University said it is "committed to fundamental principles of academic freedom and the uncensored dissemination of knowledge and information... there are legitimate educational and other non-infringing uses of Napster."

          The University of California at Berkeley, in its Residence Hall Bandwidth Frequently Asked Questions, declined to bar Napster use due to technical difficulties, but also because it said "banning Napster is a form of censorship."

          The Boston Globe newspaper and the Harvard Crimson student paper both reported this week that Harvard University would also continue to allow Napster access, but a university spokesman said that no official decision has been made yet. A decision is expected next week.

          Though these schools will continue to offer Napster access, some of them have reiterated their students' responsibilities regarding copyright. In an e-mail to the student body, Duke Executive Vice President Tallman Trask III told students, "Your license to use Duke's computing networks is predicated on legal use only, and that copyright infringement is not a permitted use."

          Duke is not the only university trying to make sure that its students know their responsibilities. The University of North Carolina has conducted extensive education campaigns on the issue, according to Jeanne Smythe, the director for computing policy at the school.

          The school hangs posters and has had meetings in its student dormitories, hosted panel discussions, presentations by law professors, and requires that all incoming students watch a video detailing copyright law, Smythe said.

          In explaining the school's decision not to block Napster, Smythe said "We do not, as a policy, block Web sites. But we expect that individuals will act in accordance (with copyright law)." If the university was to be notified of specific copyright infringements, it would comply with its legal responsibilities under the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act and investigate the charges, Smythe added.

          Napster was sued by the Recording Industry Association of America Inc. (RIAA) in March for alleged copyright infringement. A judge found the company guilty of infringement in June and ordered the service shut down. A temporary stay has kept the service running since then, but Napster and the RIAA are set to meet in court Oct. 2 to argue the company's fate.

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