Chuck D Criticizes MP3.com Chief For Siding With RIAA Against Napster

Rapper accuses recording industry of trying to maintain status quo, getting greedy for consumer dollars.

Veteran Public Enemy rapper Chuck D criticized MP3.com CEO Michael Robertson for attacking Napster in a legal statement Robertson filed last week.

"There's so many people jumping sides in this whole digital realm,"

Chuck D said. "I guess [Robertson] decided to get off the raft and get

on the Titanic. Somebody needs to tell Mike it's better to be in the

raft."

The statement was posted on the Recording Industry Association of

America's Web site Monday as part of the group's lawsuit against the

controversial file-sharing software company.

The statement was included with the company's request for a

preliminary injunction, which would forbid Napster from allowing

copyrighted material to pass through its portals for the duration of

the copyright infringement suit brought by the RIAA.

"In my view, Napster is not designed to promote or share the music of unknown or lesser artists," Robertson said, attacking Napster's

position that its primary purpose is to allow lesser-known bands to get their music heard. "The only way to find a song on Napster is to enter the name of the song and/or artist that the user wants to find. By definition, unknown artists cannot be found, at least not in any

meaningful way."

MP3.com had been in the same boat as Napster — weighed down by numerous copyright infringement lawsuits filed by major record labels — and the company announced in recent weeks that it had reached joint court settlements and distribution agreements with industry megaliths Warner Music Group and BMG Entertainment.

Representatives of MP3.com did not return calls for comment.

'New Radio'

But Chuck D, who holds file-sharing to be the "new radio," said the

MP3.com CEO is playing for the wrong team. RIAA, the rapper holds, is trying to maintain its traditional control over music distribution,

disguised as a battle to protect artists' copyrights.

"It's real funny because the majors, at the end of the day, they just

want to be in the same position that they've always been in," Chuck

D said. "A lot of the record companies own the copyrights from the

last century. It's easy to look at a scapegoat excuse — 'Oh yeah, we're looking out for artists.' … It's never been about the music over the last couple of years; it's about figuring out ways that they can squeeze the consumer dollar."

RIAA spokesperson Amy Weiss said it's not just record

labels that own copyrights. Therefore, she said, the fight isn't only about

labels losing money. "There's also a lot of copyrights owned by the

songwriters and some artists, too," she said. "We at the recording

industry don't pretend to represent artists — we represent record companies — but we're all in this together. Piracy on the Internet is serious, and if everybody's music is going to be stolen, and nobody gets paid for this, we all lose."

But Chuck D questions the recording industry's

projections of loss because of Napster and other forms of unauthorized

digital distribution.

"When you're dealing with the airwaves and the free world, you can't

talk about what you don't have or what you shoulda had," he said.

"Eminem's sh-- has been pirated and bootlegged, and he still sold 3.3 million copies for [Dr.] Dre's label, so, how could you just talk about, 'Well, he could have sold 5.3 million?' "

"It's like the fat king who sits on the f---in' throne and talks about how he could have ate 80 chickens ... and the rest of the motherf---ers is bringing him chickens from the f---in' town and starving themselves."

Chuck D has a few music Web sites of his own — the hip-hop site rapstation.com, net radio site bringthenoise.com and his legendary group's publicenemy.com. The rapper said the success of those sites has sent the group — known for its anti-establishment social critique in tunes such as "Fight the Power" (RealAudio excerpt) and "41:19" (RealAudio excerpt) — on eight tours.

Competition In Cutthroat Industry

Chuck D said he would not have been able to compete in a cutthroat recording industry, which he said backs only a few artists with big money and squelches the rest.

"I basically just couldn't survive in it," Chuck D said. "It would be

easier for me to count from one dollar up instead of being in a

vacuum of having to compete with a lot of other artists and needing

at least a million dollars behind your art for the chance of being

looked at and accepted."

Weiss said the RIAA accepts the Internet as a powerful promotional

tool and welcomes new bands whose careers are brought up by Internet exposure — but Napster, she said, is not in the business of helping new artists.

"Chuck D has the luxury of being a well-known artist, and you can go on Napster and find his stuff," Weiss said. "There are a number of sites where you can find new music, but that's certainly not the case with Napster."

The rapper said the RIAA — as well as hard-rockers Metallica, fellow hip-hop icon Dr. Dre and Robertson — are approaching the digital-music revolution with the wrong tactic. He said they're trying to force new technologies to conform to an antiquated music-distribution system, rather than aligning themselves with the new.

"This is beyond any of your control," the rapper said he would tell

Napster's attackers. "This is purely a situation where the public has

gotten even with the industry, and you have to figure out how you can still serve the public and still be part of the industry. But it's not gonna happen in a 20th-century way. Those days are over. In a 21st-century situation, you might have to jump in the pool with everybody else. All the VIP sections are closed."


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