Napster leads march on Washington

Free music sit-in planned

Napster is bringing its message of sharing to Washington, D.C., scheduling a 1960s-like "teach-in" and free concert next month to accompany a planned congressional hearing on online copyright issues.

As it has fared increasingly poorly in courts, the file-swapping company is hoping policy-makers will listen to the complaints of outraged music-traders and help reverse its fortunes. Napster is pushing for its members to go to Washington on April 3 and show their support for the company's actions.

"It's important for the Napster community to make an impression on the lawmakers gathering to learn about Napster, file sharing, and the future of music on the Internet," an appeal on the company's Web site reads. "We need you, your parents, your kids, and your friends to attend."

The request is the latest in a series of escalating appeals from Napster to its fans to take political action. For example, the company has set up a free number that people can use to call Congress to register their support for file swapping.

For the past few months, the company also has been touting a "Napster Action Network," soliciting the help of people to e-mail friends or even "form or manage a local Napster advocacy chapter."

None of these attempts at grassroots organisation has yet to affect the company's legal outlook, however.

The past two weeks have seen Napster and the record industry spar over the implementation of a court order designed to pull as much copyrighted material as possible off Napster's network. The Recording Industry Association of America says Napster's filtering techniques aren't doing enough, while Napster says the record companies aren't giving the company good data on what to filter.

The April 3 hearing will be held in the Senate Judiciary Committee. That committee's chairman, Senator Orrin Hatch has been one of the most outspoken legislative critics of the record companies' intransigence in working with online music companies.

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