Harvard Stays Clear of Napster Battle

Although legal threats and bandwidth congestion have recently prompted more than 100 schools to ban the use of a popular music-trading program on their networks, Harvard has somehow managed to stay out of the spotlight--and the courts--on the issue.

Last December, 18 record labels filed suit against Napster--a company whose MusicShare software allows users to trade MP3 music files over the Internet--for copyright infringement.

A more recent suit by the metal band Metallica has prompted three schools, including Yale, to ban the use of Napster on their networks.


The suit against Napster alleges that the firm engages in "vicarious and contributory" copyright infringement.

Vicarious copyright infringement is defined as the failure of the defendant to stop copyright violations when it is in a position to do so and when it will benefit financially from the violations. Contributory copyright infringement entails actively helping a third party break copyright law.

Professors at Harvard Law School (HLS) say the University may be bound to restrict access if a lawsuit is served, but Harvard denies it is liable in any way, and says that for now, it will not even consider outlawing use of the software.

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Rapper Dr. Dre and the rock band Metallica separately filed suits against Napster and several universities this spring. Metallica named Yale, Indiana University and University of Southern California in its suit.

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