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Napster Files Brief Late Friday
By Sue Zeidler

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - One day after Hollywood scored a big win in a legal battle involving video piracy on the Web, the target of another landmark battle with the entertainment industry, Napster Inc., went back to court.

Lawyers for Napster, a wildly popular service that lets fans swap songs for free by trading MP3 files, worked for the past few weeks on a brief filed late Friday, contending that sharing of music files using its software for noncommercial use is fair and legal.

"The brief in essence does take off and provide detail and examples of the earlier arguments that we presented," Napster's lawyer Jonathan Schiller told reporters in a telephone conference shortly after filing the brief.

The Recording Industry Association of America's (RIAA) suit against Napster is on a fast legal track since a federal appeals court in July granted Napster a last-minute reprieve, staying a judge's injunction order to shut down the service.

In granting the 11th-hour reprieve, the appeals court ruling said Napster had raised "substantial issues of first impression," meaning it presented issues for legal review for the first time.

Still, Napster chief executive Hank Barry said the best result would be reaching a settlement with the recording industry.

"We have been trying to propose structures that will compensate artists," Barry told reporters. "We have been doing that from day one."

The lawsuit represents one facet of a mounting crusade by the music and film industries, which are scrambling to find ways to protect their copyrighted works from piracy on the Internet.

On Thursday, the motion picture industry scored a major victory in another high-profile case it hopes will help stem video piracy when a federal judge barred a journalist from republishing software code that unlocks scrambling on DVDs, enabling movies to be copied and swapped on the Internet.

While the cases are strikingly different, the entertainment conglomerates in both lawsuits are claiming the defendants are promoting piracy of copyrighted works on the Internet, which could ultimately undermine their livelihoods.

Napster is accused of providing a service that makes it easy to pirate songs, while defendants in the DVD case are actually accused of making tools available to thwart the industry's safeguards to protect their material.

"There are differences but the cases are also similar because the defendants in both cases are accused of using the Internet to facilitate copying," said Leonard Rubin, a copyright expert and lawyer with Gordon and Glickson.

"And in both cases, the court is deciding that copyright owners are entitled to royalties and that free copying should not be allowed," he said.

Indeed, while Napster's reprieve from an injunction last month was seen as a blow to the RIAA, many lawyers say the law is on the industry's side in both the Napster and the video hacker case.

Both lawyers for Napster as well as journalist Eric Corley, who is targeted in the DVD case for publicizing the existence of a software utility known as Decode Content Scrambling System, are appealing and experts say both cases could wind up at the Supreme Court level.

"These are important issues at stake. This case will have an important effect not only on the freedom to share music but also on how people will be able to use the Internet to share information," said Napster's lawyer David Boies, best known as lead prosecutor for the Justice Department in the Microsoft anti-trust case.

The RIAA, which represents big record companies like Seagram Co. Ltd.'s Universal Music, Bertelsmann AG's (BTGGga.D) BMG, Sony Corp.'s (6758.T) Sony Music and Time Warner's Warner Music Group and EMI, first sued Napster for copyright infringement in December and is now seeking a preliminary injunction against the service, which has amassed about 20 million registered users.




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