|The lawsuit was expected, but the possibility that people who use the music-exchange program might also be hauled into court was not.
Rap artist Dr. Dre has filed suit against online music firm Napster, alleging the company has violated his copyrights by allowing users to trade digital copies of his songs.
In an unusual twist, the suit also leaves the door open for suing individual Napster users.
"If it turns out that there are people who have huge hard drives and actually are downloading copyrighted materials and transmitting (them) on the Internet, we may very well go after them because they are engaged in theft," said Dr. Dre attorney Howard King.
The suit, filed in federal court in Los Angeles, follows a similar suit by heavy metal group Metallica. Both suits were filed by King.
Napster had no comment on the suit.
Andre Young (aka Dr. Dre) previously sent Napster a letter asking the company to remove his songs from its lists. Napster's software allows users to view and swap digital songs that are stored on other users' hard drives.
"Their only response was (to say that) the songs aren't on their servers, and if (Young) will send a letter under penalty of perjury identifying specific songs and users that they would restrict those users," King said.
"That was not a satisfactory response. That was a comical response."
King said the new suit seeks an injunction against Napster as well as damages.
Universities back off
The suit filed by Metallica had originally named Yale University, the University of Southern California and Indiana University as co-defendants, but the schools were dropped after they banned students from using Napster.
Rather than banning Napster outright, USC opted for a compromise. It said students could use Napster, but only on computers specified by the university.
The new suit lists 10 "John Doe" defendants that King said could be later identified as "universities that have not blocked Napster or students engaged in copyright violation."
Napster has also been sued by the Recording Industry Association of America, which claims that Napster violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
The RIAA and individual artists have also declared war on MP3.com, which allows users to access their private CD collections via the Net.