Chuck D To Testify Before Congress On Napster, Online Music

Small Business Committee meets May 24 to examine business models in era of free music.

Rapper Chuck D will testify before a congressional committee this month on Napster and online music, a committee spokesperson said.

"One of the issues that committee members have is with this whole new model of music being shared on the Internet for free — how is it that musicians and small music labels are going to make money?" House Small Business Committee spokesperson Dwayne Andrews said.

The informational hearing is slated for May 24 and will be open to the public.

While the meeting is not centered solely on Napster Inc.'s namesake MP3-trading software, Chuck D has been an outspoken advocate for the program so it will undoubtedly be discussed, Andrews said.

Last year, Chuck D's band, Public Enemy, released There's a Poison Goin' On ..., which includes "Do You Wanna Go Our Way???" (RealAudio excerpt) in MP3 format at a time when most of the music industry was fighting the format.

More recently, Napster has become the epicenter for the debate over online music piracy. Hard-rockers Metallica, rapper Dr. Dre and a music industry trade group all have sued Napster, alleging its program enables copyright infringement by allowing users to trade near-CD-quality MP3 music files without permission of the copyright holder.

Peter Harter, vice president for global public policy at MP3 retailer, and several industry analysts also will testify, Andrews said.

The Small Business Committee already has held several hearings on various facets of e-commerce, he said. "The music industry seemed like a natural because it was something that was at least a little more interesting for the committee members to digest."

Among the committee's members is Rep. Mary Bono, R-Calif., widow of late pop singer and Congressman Sonny Bono.

Online music activist Nina Crowley said she was encouraged by the hearing.

"If they listen to Chuck, they'll understand that small bands and small labels are at a great advantage with new business models," said Crowley, executive director for the anticensorship Massachusetts Music Industry Coalition.