Jeff Buckley Fans Booted Off Napster

Trading files of late singer/songwriter's unreleased recordings violates his wishes, estate says.

Fans of the late singer/songwriter Jeff Buckley this week became the latest Napster users to find themselves booted off the file-trading service by representatives of their favorite artist.

But as it turns out, they weren't ejected for the usual reasons — such as when Dr. Dre and Metallica kicked thousands of users off Napster earlier this year for sharing songs from their albums.

The issue for Buckley's estate — which is stewarded by Buckley's mother, Mary Guibert — was not that fans were circulating the singer's commercially released recordings. Instead, the estate said it feared that fans were inadvertently violating the late singer's wishes by sharing unreleased studio tracks and live recordings that weren't up to Buckley's standards.

"Jeff made it very clear that certain songs and materials were not for publication," Fun Palace Entertainment, which handles the estate's business affairs, said in a statement released Monday to MTVi News. "He was religiously protective of the quality of the recordings released for public consumption. For Jeff's mother and those of us who work with her, his known wishes are sacrosanct."

If possible, Buckley's estate simply would have banned unreleased tracks from appearing on Napster, Fun Palace said, but Napster's current policy allows only for copyright-infringing users to be banned. Instead, Fun Palace only targeted users who shared unreleased recordings, allowing those who shared the singer's commercially available material to remain on Napster.

Napster foes Metallica have taken the exact opposite approach — although they strongly object to fans trading their official recordings, Metallica have allowed them to circulate unreleased concert recordings on Napster.

Sony Music — which recently helped to ban users from Napster for sharing tracks by one of its acts, Rage Against the Machine — was not involved in the Buckley ban, although Buckley was signed to their Columbia label, according to a source close to the situation, who requested anonymity.

"Sony has occasionally experimented with doing Napster actions, but they're not aware of [the Buckley ban]," the source said. Fans who shared tracks by another Sony artist, Sade, recently were banned from Napster by Sony Music Europe, according to the source.

Rage called the banning of their fans a "horrible mistake," and said the group's management company failed to consult the band before taking action. Rage promised to help users get back onto Napster, and they released free music on their Web site to try to make amends.

Buckley's estate said it hopes the singer's fans will try to understand the reasons for the ban.

"We're not interested in waging war with understandably angry (often young) banned Napster users, whose only real 'crimes' are a fervent love of Jeff's music and ignorance of Jeff's wishes and the law," Fun Palace said in the statement. "We'd rather they were enlightened, not inflamed."

Napster, Inc. declined to comment on the Buckley ban through its spokesperson at the Girlie Action publicity firm.

Buckley — whose passionate singing style combined a near-operatic range with influences ranging from world music to Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant — drowned while swimming in the Mississippi River in Memphis, Tennessee, in May 1997 at the age of 30. He was in Memphis to record his follow-up to his debut album, 1994's Grace.

Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk — a two-CD set featuring unreleased demos and music recorded during sessions for his second album — was released in 1998. A live album, Mystery White Boy, followed this year.

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