Harvard Will Not Block Napster Access

University joins several other in rebuffing bands

The Crimson has learned that the University will deny a request to block access to Napster, the popular music-sharing service that has come under legal assault from the rock groups Metallica and Dr. Dre.

The letter, signed by Daniel D. Moriarty, the assistant provost for information technologies, will be sent to Howard E. King, the attorney for Metallica and Dr. Dre, today.

All universities that have responded to King's recent request have refused to block access to the service.


Last spring, King filed suit against three universities for allowing students to access Napster over their networks. Yale University, Indiana University and the University of Southern California blocked access to Napster and were subsequently dropped from the suit.

Most schools King contacted this month replied last Friday. University Counsel Allan Ryan said Harvard needed the extra time to insure that everyone involved in the decision had a chance to be heard.

King could not be reached for comment yesterday, but has previously said he would not immediately sue schools that would not block access to Napster.

Instead, King said he would try to convince the universities of their obligations under the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

"We're going to try to keep a dialogue with these universities, maybe point them to some authority that they've ignored or are not aware of that tells them they have a higher responsibility than just putting their head in their sand," he said.

King's original letter posited that Harvard "has a moral, ethical and legal obligation" to prevent copyright infringement over its networks, but cited no specific legal statutes.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act indemnifies Internet Service Providers (ISP) such as Harvard from copyright abuses committed over their computer networks.

However, the act also requires that an ISP identify users infringing on copyrights when prompted by the copyright holder.

The act also requires that the ISP terminate the Internet connection of a repeat copyright offender.

Harvard Computer Society (HCS) President David J. Mitby praised the University's decision.

"The general consensus was that we support the open use of computing," Mitby said of the group. "Not everyone who uses Napster uses it illegally." HCS drafted a position statement two weeks ago opposing any proposal that would block access to Napster.

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