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DoJ's top gun from MS trial joins Napster defence

The RIAA could be in for a rough ride...

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Nemesis surely looms for the unlovely Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), with the news that David Boies, the Wyatt Earp of antitrust law, has signed up for the Napster defence team. Boies, special counsel for the US government in its antitrust action against Microsoft, has spent much of the last two years reducing strong Microsoft execs to shifty, implausible blusterers.

And it's worse than that, Jim - from the statement he issued on his being retained by Napster, he appears to view freedom as the issue at stake in the case. The case "raises important questions as to the extent to which Internet directories will remain free to permit individual users to use a directory to communicate and, in some cases, to share files without monitoring and regulating what those users do."

Just the tiniest of soundbites, but already Boies is setting up the case with liberty on one side ("free", "individual", "communicate") and repression (monitoring and regulating") on the other.

Boies is taking the Napster line that essentially, all it and similar directory system do is help users "to engage in sharing," which is widely practised on a small scale in the form of recording audio and video for personal use. Napster is therefore the same, but bigger as "the scale of the Internet greatly increases the extent of the sharing."

The Napster case is due to be heard next month in San Francisco, but as the RIAA and the Music Publishers Association (MPA) are seeking a preliminary injuction against Napster beforehand, we may be due a few Napster-related outings by the entertaining Mr Boies quite soon. ®

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