Metallica drummer: Stop ripping us off!

Musician Lars Ulrich demands Napster block access to the band's music by more than 300,000 users

Stealing music over the Net is no different from stealing it from a record store, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich said Wednesday as he demanded that Napster block access to the band's music by 335,435 users.

Accompanied by his lawyer and 13 cardboard boxes of Napster users' names and IP addresses, Ulrich said the heavy-metal band was prepared to lose some fans over the copyright infringement lawsuit that the band filed against Napster on April 14.

In a letter dated April 20, the digital download site said it could not remove illegal copies of the band's music or restrict users unless Metallica could provide proof of specific violations.

Metallica is not going after users personally, Ulrich said; "We merely want to present Napster with the names so they can fulfill their promise."

In a statement issued by its lawyer, Napster said the company "will review the over 300,000 fan names that Metallica turned in as soon as possible. If the claims are submitted properly, the company will take the appropriate actions to disable the users Metallica has identified.

"Of course, if the band would provide the names in computerised form, rather than in tens of thousands of pages of paper intended to create a photo opp, that would expedite the process," wrote Napster's lawyer, Laurence Pulgram of the San Francisco firm of Fenwick & West.

In a separate statement, Napster's 19-year-old founder Shawn Fanning said, "I'm a huge Metallica fan and therefore really sorry that they're going in this direction."

NetPD, a consulting firm the band hired to monitor the Napster site from April 28 through April 30, produced 335,435 distinct user names and 1,456,075 specific violations, according to a letter from the band's lawyer. Attorney Howard King is also representing rapper Dr. Dre in a similar lawsuit against Napster.

Fan reaction

"I can't believe they'd do something so overtly unhip," said Metallica fan and Napster user Marc Brown of San Mateo.

His co-worker, Jason Combs-Edwards, also wearing a Metallica T-shirt, disagreed.

"I feel if you're going to give away somebody's music you should get their permission; they're the ones who create it," said Combs-Edwards of San Mateo, who said he hasn't used Napster "and I never will."

Brown was more skeptical. "They're just an ageing dinosaur band looking for media attention," he said. "They don't see that [downloading music] is the future."

Ulrich admitted he'd never been on a Web site, "I can barely get onto AOL."

But the lawsuit is not about the Net, according to Ulrich. It's about artistic control.

Metallica decided to file the lawsuit after six different versions of "I Disappear," an unreleased track that Ulrich described as a work in progress, was posted on Napster.

Money is also an issue, according to a statement on the Metallica Web site. "Why is it all of a sudden okay to get music for free? Why should music be free, when it costs artists money to record and produce it?"

But Brown said the musicians "should be content with their vast wealth."

Ulrich said he is not opposed to a pay-for-play model such as the one launched Monday on MP3.com.

One day, "it will be a great way to get our music directly to our fans," he said. "Ten years from now, this will be a different ball game."

Fanning, Napster's founder, said he'd like the chance to explain to the band why Napster has so many fans.

"Perhaps we could bring all of this to a peaceful conclusion," Fanning said. "Napster respects the role of artists and is very interested in working with Metallica and the music industry to develop a workable model that is fair to everyone while unleashing the power of the Internet to build enthusiasm for music."

Taking issue with fellow musicians Dr. Dre and Metallica, the Chuckster has come out foursquare behind Napster Inc. Go with Charles Cooper to AnchorDesk UK for the news comment.

DO you use Napster? What do you think? Tell the Mailroom. And read what others have said.

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