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After Napster Decision, Legal Worries Remain

By Marla B. Kaplan, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard yesterday joined a growing group of universities that have declined to block Internet access to Napster, but warned that it will hold students responsible for downloading copyrighted materials.

In a letter mailed yesterday to Howard E. King, the attorney for Metallica and Dr. Dre, Assistant Provost for Information Technology Daniel D. Moriarty wrote that banning access to specific Internet sites based on their content "would be inconsistent with the values of broad inquiry and the exploration of ideas that Harvard...has traditionally sought to protect."

While affirming the University's commitment to unobstructed access to the Internet, Moriarty wrote that Harvard does not "condone or ignore" copyright infringement and encouraged King to report specific cases when Harvard network users infringe on his clients' copyrights.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 requires that Internet service providers take reasonable steps to put an end to copyright violations when the copyright owners alert them to the violations. Under that act, repeat individual offenders--including university students--can be banned permanently from their network.

According to University Counsel Allen A. Ryan, if Metallica or Dr. Dre decide to report individuals who commit online copyright infringement, student offenders may lose their network access indefinitely.

King, however, said the two bands he represents do not plan to target individuals. Rather, he said the bands have a larger goal to get universities to take a stand against the principle of Napster.

"We believe that universities are responsible once they know they're being used for wholesale copyright infringement," King said.

Still, Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 said yesterday that although students are able to use Napster without restriction, the College does not condone illegal activity--including the download of copyright-protected music.

"We believe in this area as others that students should take responsibility, and be held responsible, for their own actions," Lewis wrote in an e-mail message. "Moreover, this is more than a moral stance about our expectations that students obey the law; violating this one has very real potential consequences for students."

Given that the College would be required to terminate the network access of students found to be "repeat infringers" of copyright law, Lewis said students should understand the potential great consequences of their actions.

"I think it would be very hard for any student to continue to be educated here without network access, so I think this is the point of maximum vulnerability students face in using Napster to download copyrighted materials illegally," Lewis wrote.

According to Ryan, Harvard will continue to study the issue, particularly because the law has yet to be tested and is unclear in its definitions of what constitutes a "repeat offender."

"We're concerned because it's a new penalty," Ryan said. "Traditionally people feel that they don't need to worry, that 'people won't sue little old me.' But cutting someone off the network doesn't take a lot. It's something we have to deal with, not something we want to do."

Although King said he had not received Harvard's letter as of yesterday afternoon, he said he regretted the University's decision and called it "disengenuous."

"We're obviously disappointed Harvard didn't follow the pattern set by 40 percent of top universities that all banned it," King said. "There's no question that every university understands that Napster's being used to download copyrighted material."

He said Metallica and Dr. Dre will continue a dialog with Harvard and other schools about Napster.

"We hope to demonstrate why these schools are not taking the right, proper moral or legal approach with this issue," he said.

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