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Napster partner urged to curb Nazi song swaps

Bertelsmann must act to ban racists, demand German authorities

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German media giant Bertelsmann has said it will co-operate with the country's Constitutional Protection Office to eliminate neo-Nazi songs from Napster - but it's not sure what it can really do to help.

Yesterday, the CPO, an organisation set up to enforce German's strict anti-racism and anti-Nazi laws, warned that Napster's software makes it very easy for extreme right wing rock bands to publish their music. Nazi symbols and rhetoric are illegal in Germany.

"Napster is a particular challenge because with it, everyone has access to skinhead and Nazi music with its incitement to hatred and its appalling anti-Semitic content," a CPO spokesman said yesterday.

Interviewed by Infoworld after the CPO warning was issued, Bertelsmann e-commerce supremo Andreas Schmidt said his company would help. Napster's usage Ts&Cs prohibit the use of the service for the exchange of material likely to incite violence.

That makes it sound like stemming the flow of offensive material will be easy, but Schmidt was forced to admit that doing so in practice will be hard. With over 40 million users online, monitoring shared music files for racist content will be very hard indeed.

Metallica and other bands managed to track what they said were illegal copies of their music and inform Napster which users were posting those copies on the service. If they can do it, so can Bertelsmann, but it remains a tricky business, and there's nothing to stop racist posters signing on again under a new username.

What else can we do? the company asked. "Of course [applying Ts&Cs] is an unsatisfactory situation,'' said a Bertelsmann spokesman. "But the basic principle of the Internet is that every user can remain anonymous." ®

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