Napster Could Face UC's Wrath Today

Bonne Chance, Sarah Mourra and Colin Sueyres of The Daily Californian staff contributed to this report.





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Today is a big day for Internet music lovers. By the time night falls, the university will announce whether or not it will ban Napster from the UC system.

UC officials are expected to announce this morning their response to recording artists Metallica and Dr. Dre, who sent a letter to UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Berdahl asking him to ban access to Napster's Web site.

The request to Berdahl, sent Sept. 7, was forwarded to UC President Richard Atkinson. He will announce which side the university will take in the music industry's great debate.

Yesterday, Penn State University banned access to Napster, while four schools, including Harvard and Stanford universities, announced they would not limit access to the server. Of the 21 schools to which the letter was sent , some, like the University of Michigan, were still in deliberation as of yesterday.

"We were just keeping our original policy," said Debra Zumwault, a Stanford attorney. "We haven't banned anything on the Internet."

Over the last year, many campuses have become ensnared in the legal battle surrounding Napster and the widespread use of MP3s. When Metallica and Dr. Dre first sued the server, they named the University of Southern California, Yale University and Indiana University as co-defendants, on the grounds that they were aware of and permitted copyright violations. All three campuses moved to ban access to Napster.

If the University of California elects to continue access to the server, it will not, as some speculate, be slapped with a lawsuit, the lawyer representing the two recording artists said yesterday.

"We made it pretty clear we're not going to sue colleges, at least not at this point in time," said Howard King. "I think at this point my clients want me to continue the educational process."

King pointed out the two arguments inherent in the debate over collegiate access - while universities have a vested interest in safeguarding copyright and intellectual property laws, the task of blocking access to the server raises questions of censorship and, not surprisingly, angers students.

"I wouldn't be very happy about it," said Gabriel Wong, a UC Berkeley sophomore. "I think a lot of people would be disappointed, but I am not sure if they would matter to the school. It would kind of suck, but it is not the end of the world."

Until now, the UC system had not publically taken up the issue of banning Napster. In the spring, however, UC Berkeley narrowed its bandwidth on residence hall ethernet connections to dissuade students from downloading MP3 files.

Even if Atkinson does elect to ban the server, there are other places on the Internet where students can download MP3 files.

"I would probably be against it," said Richard Dihn, a freshman intended mechanical engineering major. "I think it is a valuable resource and I don't think it's causing any problems for the university. I don't think they should be banning it."

By tonight, the speculation will be over, and the university will face either criticism from the music industry or ire from students.

"Cal is usually a trendsetter," King said.

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