Harvard Stays Clear of Napster Battle

On May 5, the District Court of Northern California denied Napster's request for dismissal of the case.

Fisher notes that this case may be comparable to the 1984 Supreme Court decision which ruled that Sony was not liable for producing VCRs--which can be used for copyright infringement--due to the fact that VCR's have other legitimate uses.

"Under the theory of contributory copyright infringement, as clarified in the Betamax case, Napster is only liable for its [MusicShare] technology if it can be shown to have no significant legitimate use," Fisher says.


But both Zittrain and Fisher note that Napster may not prevail due to the fact that, at least currently, Napster's overwhelming use is for copyright infringement.

In any case, according to Fisher, a protracted battle is unlikely. He notes that copyright cases rarely reach the Supreme Court.

Jay P. Bregman, a Berkman Center research affiliate, also notes that Napster may not have the financial resources to conduct a long legal battle.

"[Napster] is a small company, and it remains unclear whether they have the resources or the will to appeal an unfavorable decision."

Fisher feels that a settlement would be a better long-term solution, because it would allow musicians and the recording industry to benefit from the positive uses of MP3s.

Recommended Articles