Napster Dividing Artists From Prince 2 Dave Matthews

While Chuck D, DMB embrace file-sharing service and Dre, Metallica denounce it, Prince encourages musicians to take control of distribution.

With Napster and the record labels arguing their cases again on Friday (March 2) in a San Francisco courtroom, artists remain divided in their opinions on the file-swapping service.

Prince, long a critic of the music industry, takes a pragmatic — and proprietary — approach, condemning Napster while encouraging artists to take control of the distribution of their work, as he has with his NPG Music Club subscription service.

"The creator of said work should and will define it," Prince said Thursday (March 1) in an online interview, during which he dictated his comments to a typist who entered them in the artist's unique spelling style.

"The internet should b set up where every artist has a site/sight. If u want a particular work from this artist, you go to his/her site/sight and cop," he said from his Paisley Park complex in Minneapolis. "No one should b allowed 2 bootleg the work because the creator does not benefit."

But Prince said he understands why music fans have flocked to Napster by the millions.

"File sharing was inevitable, because ppl r tired of getting pimped at the wrecka stow," he said. "One or 2 good songs 4 eighteen dollars is CRAZY!"

By signing artists to contracts giving record labels ownership of master recordings, Prince said the industry has tried to redefine art as product and property. "That way, they redefine us," he said.

Prince isn't alone among artists in his criticism of Napster as infringing on artists' copyrights. Metallica and Dr. Dre both filed suit against the service, and had thousands of Napster users booted for trading their music. The estate of the late Jeff Buckley also asked the service to remove users who traded his music, and representatives for rock pioneer Roy Orbison's estate this week notified Napster of more than a million violations of the singer's copyrights by users.

Among those in the pro-Napster camp is the Dave Matthews Band, who issued its latest single, "I Did It," via the service in January. The multiplatinum Matthews agrees that artists should rally 'round Napster.

"I don't see the sense in fighting something that is the future. I don't feel that I'm in the position to say I'm being ripped off by Napster in any way," Matthews said Tuesday.

"We will always be able to play music, and no one will be able to take that away from us," he said. "There will be a lot more positive things that come out of Napster than negative. It's going to give people access to music they otherwise wouldn't have, because of the nature of the industry."

Rapper Chuck D, also an outspoken Napster supporter, wrote a New York Times column in April encouraging fellow artists to embrace the file-swapping service.

Late last year, Rage Against the Machine asked Napster to reinstate thousands of members who had been kicked off the service at the request of Sony Music Corp. for downloading copies of songs from the band's Renegades album.

And Limp Bizkit like the service at least enough to have taken $2 million of Napster's cash to sponsor their summer 2000 tour.

Napster will square off against the record labels and the Recording Industry Association of America in front of U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel at 10 a.m. PT on Friday, in a hearing regarding the modification of the injunction she issued in July. While the injunction was quickly stayed by the 9th Circuit Court on Napster's appeal, a three-judge panel from that court ruled on February 12 that the injunction should be modified, not overturned.

Regardless of Patel's decision — which likely will not come on Friday — Napster has filed a request for an appeal before a larger panel of 11 9th Circuit Court judges.

For complete coverage of the Napster saga, check out MTV News' "Napster Files."