Grammy Producers Sue Napster Over 'Stan' Duet

Recording Academy says an Elton John/Eminem single may never see release after service's users download performance for free.

Napster's problems keep mounting. A day after a U.S. District Court issued an injunction ordering the service to remove copyrighted songs, the producers of the Grammys sued Napster over potential lost revenue from the planned release of Elton John and Eminem's "Stan" duet.

Now, that single might not be released at all.

"You have to ask yourself if people are going to buy it after it's been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times on Napster," National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences President Michael Greene said Wednesday (March 7). "It catches you by surprise when you find so many people with so little regard for copyright, and it has a chilling effect on the copyright owner when they realize people can get their music for free."

The Recording Academy filed suit Tuesday in a federal court in San Francisco seeking damages for millions of dollars potentially lost when people downloaded the "Stan" performance for free on Napster. Greene said the song, which was planned as a single benefiting charities including NARAS' MusiCares musicians assistance program, might never see commercial release, though the academy hasn't yet totally abandoned the idea.

Greene said producers were remixing other songs from the February 21 Grammys ceremony, including U2's "Beautiful Day" and Madonna's "Music," for possible release. NARAS notified Napster on March 2 that it was violating copyright by allowing those versions to remain available, but Napster didn't block the songs from the service, according to a statement on the official Grammy Web site.

NARAS filed an amicus brief last summer supporting the major labels and the Recording Industry Association of America's lawsuit against Napster. Greene expressed frustration that it took so long to hand down the injunction, which was issued late Monday.

"The court drug its feet, and now it put the onus back on the copyright owner," Greene said of the injunction, which requires the music industry to inform Napster of each song file it would like removed from the service. "Napster and Gnutella and all the rest need to accept the fact that they provide a valuable service, but if it's copyrighted, it's breaking the law. It's like breaking into a car and stealing something."

Greene, who gave a lengthy speech about rock music's rebellious nature when he introduced Eminem and John during the Grammys telecast, dismissed the notion that Napster users were at least partially rebelling against a music industry that pushes hit-making product on them. "If you talk to kids, that's not what they're doing," he said. "They're just getting free CDs that they don't have to pay for."

He added that downloadable music is a great way for new bands to get their music out there.

Representatives for Napster said the file-sharing service had no comment on NARAS' suit.

In related news, EMusic filed a complaint against Napster alleging copyright violation and unfair competition. EMusic.com, which offers downloadable music from artists including the Donnas and Elvis Costello, claims that Napster has refused its requests to filter tracks for which EMusic holds licenses.

In November, the firm asked Napster to notify users who were downloading EMusic tracks that they were violating copyright law, and to block them from the system if they continued. On Wednesday, EMusic asked Napster to reinstate blocked users, claiming that the company "bears no malice towards Napster's users."

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