Universities block access to popular music site

Metallica sues schools that permit student downloads

INDIANA -- The heavy metal band Metallica sued a popular MP3-format music retrieval site and several universities in April for copyright infringement in an effort to end online music piracy.

Users of the site, Napster.com, are able to share song files between computers connected to the Internet. When a song is requested, Napster searches the files of other users. Once the song is located, users can download it onto their own computers. But the practice has raised copyright concerns because the songs traded among users are not monitored.

In the past year, more than 100 colleges around the country have banned student access to Napster.com on their servers because of concerns over the amount of network space the site takes up and fears of lawsuits like the one Metallica initiated.

Although network administrators say the large amount of network space and time the site requires causes slower connections for everyone, many students argue that universities should not be censoring their Internet access.

Chad Paulson, a sophomore at Indiana University, created a now-defunct Web site titled "Students Against University Censorship" after IU banned access to Napster. The site featured a petition for students to sign to protest the ban and updates on the status of Napster.com on campuses across the country.

Indiana University lifted the ban in March after working with Napster.com to create a plan that allows the program to search for MP3 files requested by IU students from other computers connected to the university's server before linking to the entire Internet.

But as a result, Indiana University was named in Metallica's lawsuit for encouraging music piracy by allowing students to use Napster. The university subsequently banned Napster again, and has been dropped from the suit.

Facing a similar problem with slow connection speed, technology officials at Yale University originally placed a ban on Napster.com between the hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. Yale was also named in the lawsuit, but after school officials banned Napster altogether, Metallica dropped the suit against them. Still named in the suit is the University of Southern California.    

reports, Spring 2000