UPDATE: Napster, Hackers Strike Back At Metallica

After charging Napster and three U.S. colleges with copyright infringement and racketeering, Metallica now finds itself under fire from the tech company as well as Napster-sympathetic hackers.

As we previously reported, Metallica became the first artist to go after the online music distribution company by filing a lawsuit in U.S. District Court (see "Metallica Sets Legal Sights On Napster").

The suit charges Napster along with fellow defendants U.S.C., Yale, and Indiana University with copyright infringement, unlawful use of a digital audio interface device, and violations of the Racketeering Influenced & Corrupt Organizations Act for "encourag[ing] and enabl[ing] visitors to its website to unlawfully exchange with others copyrighted songs and sound recordings without the knowledge or permission of Metallica."

Napster finally addressed the suit early this week, issuing a statement that read, "We regret

that that band's management saw fit to issue a press release -- and to file a lawsuit -- without even attempting to contact Napster. We would be happy to speak to the artists or to their management. Many bands who have approached us learned about Napster and how to leverage what we offer and understand the value of what we do. But if these people insist on turning it over to the lawyers, we'll defend the case on that turf."

An attorney for Napster also charged Metallica's suit as "written to inflame the press and intimidate universities."

Hackers have apparently weighed in on the matter as well, as the U.K.'s "Register" reports that pro-Napster tech heads hacked into the band's official Web site and posted "LEAVE NAPSTER ALONE" on Metallica's home page. While Metallica.com soon caught and rectified the problem, Attrition.org caught the moment for posterity and has posted it at www.attrition.org.

Napster boasts that its technology gives users one simple interface through which to search for and download MP3s of their favorite songs.

We will have more on this case as it develops.

For more on Napster, check out "I Want My MP3!" in Choose Or Lose.

For complete digital music coverage, check out the Digital Music Reports.