Offspring Turn Tables On Napster, Selling T-Shirts Without Permission

Source close to band calls the sales, a potential trademark infringement, a prank.

Napster Inc., maker of the controversial MP3-trading software of the same name, has had the tables turned on it by one of the company's most outspoken allies — punk pranksters the Offspring.

Wednesday night, the band began selling T-shirts, hats and stickers emblazoned with the Napster logo on their Web site (www.offspring.com) without permission from the San Mateo, Calif., company.

"It's all fair," said a source close to the band who spoke on condition of anonymity. "We've already said you guys [can use] our stuff — we're gonna do yours, too. You shouldn't have any problem with that, should you?"

Napster spokesperson Tracy Mlakar said she was unaware of the sales. A representative from the company was not immediately available to discuss the situation, she said.

Napster is a popular software program that links its users online by the thousands. It allows them to easily search one another's MP3 collections, then download particular songs.

But the company is under fire from hard-rockers Metallica, rapper Dr. Dre and the Recording Industry Association of America, all of whom have sued the company, charging its software enables copyright infringement.

The Offspring, known for sneering pop and punk hits such as "Why Don't You Get a Job" (RealAudio excerpt), have so far supported the idea of people trading their work online.

"The Offspring view MP3 technology and programs such as Napster as being a vital and necessary means to promote music and foster better relationships with our fans," reads a statement on their Web site.

The Napster name and logo are trademarks owned by the company, and may not be used by other parties, according to the Napster Web site (www.napster.com).

Andrew Krents, a lawyer who has fought trademark battles for punk outfit Furious George, said that while he did not know the specifics of the situation, the Offspring are conceivably engaged in trademark infringement.

"They're saying there are other examples of intellectual property that people can fool around with," Krents said.

The source close to the band said selling Napster gear is all meant in good fun, but that the company's reaction could be telling.

"It would be very interesting if they would go, 'We're going to send them a cease and desist [order],' " said the source. " 'Cause it would all of a sudden expose a huge hypocrisy.

"Or, it would really, really be interesting if all of a sudden they say, 'We think that's cool. We hope that more bands do that, because the more Napster T-shirts out there, the cooler it is.' Ah! [That would suggest] these guys are genuine."