Metallica Sets Legal Sights On Napster

In what marks the first significant blow in the brewing battle between artists and the emerging online music distribution aid Napster, Metallica has filed suit against the tech company.

On Thursday, the metal giants filed suit in U.S. District Court naming Napster, The University of Southern California, Yale University, and Indiana University as defendants. The suit charges Napster and the schools in question with copyright infringement, unlawful use of digital audio interface device, and violations of the Racketeering Influenced & Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO, for all you "Sopranos" fans).

Napster is still in its relative infancy, but the technology has managed to nestle itself at the center of a media storm (and raise the ire of the music industry) during its brief life span. Napster boasts that its technology gives users one simple interface through which to search for and download MP3s of their favorite songs.

Metallica and co-plaintiffs

E/M Ventures and Creeping Death Music claim that the company "encourages and enables visitors to its website to unlawfully exchange with others copyrighted songs and sound recordings without the knowledge or permission of Metallica."

The suit also claims that USC, Yale, and IU are also aiding that process by not blocking access to, as many universities have.

"We take our craft -- whether it be the music, the lyrics, or the photos and artwork -- very seriously, as do most artists," Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich said in a written statement addressing the suit. "It is therefore sickening to know that our art is being traded like a commodity rather than the art that it is. From a business standpoint, this is about piracy -- a/k/a taking something that doesn't belong to you; and that is morally and legally wrong. The trading of such information --whether it's music, videos, photos, or whatever -- is, in

effect, trafficking in stolen goods."

We will, of course, 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.