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Napster told to say 'Sorry, Metallica'

RIAA demands MP3 company soothes Lars Ulrich's hurt feelings

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Updated Napster must apologise to rock band Metallica, if it's to convince the music industry that it's serious about becoming a 'legitimate' - in the recording companies' eyes - operation.

That at least is what Recording Industry Association of America CEO Hilary Rosen has told her opposite number at Napster, Hank Barry, according to a letter leaked on the Internet and since confirmed by the RIAA as genuine.

Nice try, Hilary, but we think Napster will see through this one, and will be as willing to say sorry to Metallica for the bands' alleged losses due to contributory copyright theft as Australian Prime Minister John Howard is to apologise to the Aboriginal people for past atrocities perpetuated against them.

Why? Because an apology would be tantamount to admitting Metallica's allegations were correct and that the MP3 sharing company is indeed contributing to copyright theft, and it sure as hell isn't going to say that, last week's deal with Bertelsmann Music Group notwithstanding.

Such an admission is really what the RIAA is after here. Rosen's letter bemoans the scorn poured upon Metallica and, in particular, drummer Lars Ulrich, the band's main spokesman. This is just plain daft.

Ulrich is a bright fellow - whatever you might think of his music and his stance on Napster - and should have realised the band's actions weren't going to win them any favours from Napster proponents. If the poor guy wasn't prepared to take the heat, he'd have stayed out of the kitchen.

Rosen's point is that "[Napster's] guys have fostered the abuse that Lars and the band have taken for standing up for their rights, rights which you have acknowledged in theory in the past but now have a financial interest in supporting since you are taking Bertelsmann's money.

"Metallica took a stand on behalf of artists... They have been my heroes in this thing, and I am determined to make sure that if this thing turns out to benefit everyone, they are not left out."

But they may well be. Metallica's label is (ultimately) owned by Universal, which has publicly stated is disapproval of the BMG-Napster deal, so the band's work is unlikely to find even a legitimate home on Napster's servers.

Update

Thanks to Reg reader Nathan for pointing out that Metallica's US label is Elektra, part of Warner. Here in the UK, it's Vertigo, a Universal sub-label. Clearly Metallica licenses different companie the rights to distribute its work in different territories. In an increasingly Net-connected world, that's going to prove difficult. After all, what if Warner allows sales by BMG-Napster and Universal doesn't? If such confusion doesn't force the major labels to come together on this issue, nothing will. ®

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