Napster is encouraging users to come out by the hundreds next week to show support for the embattled file-sharing service during a U.S. Senate hearing on the future of online music.
"Online Entertainment and Copyright Law: Coming Soon to a Digital Device Near You," a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing scheduled for April 3, will include testimony from Napster CEO Hank Barry, among others, according to the company. But Napster is offering free T-shirts and concert tickets to try to get its users to show up as well.
"If the Napster community shows up in force for this hearing, it will help educate Congress on why it is important not to let the recording industry shut down music file sharing," the company wrote in an e-mail to users who've volunteered to be part of what it calls the "Napster Action Committee." A Napster publicist was unable to say how many have signed up to be part of the group, which is meant to mobilize Napster's millions of users as a lobbying army.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, has expressed sympathy for Napster in the past, encouraging music labels to reach licensing deals with the service.
"The Napster community represents a huge consumer demand for the kind of services Napster ... has offered, [and which] the major record labels have been unable to satisfy," Hatch said last month on the Senate floor. "Now might be a good time to get these deals done, for the good of music fans and for the good of the copyright industries and the artists they represent."
Napster executives have suggested that congressional legislation could save them from a district-court injunction that is forcing the service to block more and more copyrighted songs (see "RIAA: Napster Isn't Complying With Court Order")
Hatch, meanwhile, said hearings would be necessary in order to discuss the possible implications of the appeals court decision that paved the way for the injunction, as well as to "get an update on developments in the online music market."
The first 1,000 fans to tell Napster that they plan to attend the April 3 hearing will get free T-shirts and tickets to a concert that night at Washington, D.C.'s 9:30 Club featuring rootsy indie-rock act Dispatch, according to the company.
Napster founder Shawn Fanning is also scheduled to speak at a "teach-in" scheduled for April 2 at the city's Catholic University.
A spokesperson for the Recording Industry Association of America, which is in the midst of a copyright-infringement lawsuit against Napster, declined to comment on the Napster Action Committee.
(For complete coverage of the Napster saga, check out MTV News' "Napster Files.")