Indiana University dropped from Napster suit
INDIANAPOLIS - Under threat of a lawsuit, Indiana University on Thursday became the second school in a week to announce it will block access to a popular Internet site that lets people swap copyrighted music for free.
In return, IU was dropped from a federal lawsuit filed by heavy metal rock band Metallica last week against IU, Yale University and the University of Southern California, accusing them of encouraging people to pirate copyrighted music.
IU President Myles Brand decided to block access to the Napster Inc. site because the law surrounding such issues has not yet been clarified, said spokesman Christopher Simpson.
San Mateo, Calif.-based Napster's site allows Web surfers to open their hard drives to other people online at the same time and swap whatever MP3 digital music files they have stored.
At any time, thousands of people are logged into the system, making hundreds of thousands of songs - many of them copyrighted - available for easy download.
Metallica alleges the universities allowed illegal trade of copyrighted songs to flourish by failing to block access to the Napster sharing program, thereby violating the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
Metallica chose the three schools for their geographic representation, said Howard King, a lawyer representing the band. The Napster sitehas been popular on hundreds of college campuses, so much so that many banned it because students' downloads were clogging up the schools' computers networks.
Yale blocked access shortly after the suit was filed April 13 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles and was dropped from the complaint. IU followed Thursday after representatives spoke with King about a possible deal.
"Since we all can probably agree that this is the right decision, why not do it now, rather than later? That was the nature of the discussion," King said. He has not yet spoken to representatives of USC, he said.
University of Southern California officials did not immediately return phone calls by The Associated Press seeking comment.
IU officials said in a prepared statement that they believe the school is not liable.
"We believe that Indiana University has no liability by allowing access to sites such as Napster," Simpson said in a statement.
"We now believe, however, that our faculty, staff and students could incur legal exposure if they use this technology. Until those unresolved legal issues are clarified, it seems prudent to block the site."
IU freshman Ryan Bruner, who has collected dozens of popular songs for free from other Napster users, said he's sorry to see the application go, but he doesn't plan to give up on free music.
Said Bruner: "We'll just find other ways."