While many MP3 fans spent the past week worrying whether a recent Metallica lawsuit would cause them to be banned from using Napster, Dave Abbott actually invited the rock band to block his account.
"Being a smart-ass, I e-mailed them a letter, saying ... go ahead and add me to the list," he said.
Abbott, 40, of Los Angeles, said he had used the MP3-trading software to collect four Metallica songs, including "The Unforgiven" (RealAudio excerpt). However, he didn't use Napster on the weekend on which Metallica announced they had collected lists of users allegedly trading their copyrighted work.
Band representatives must have received his sarcastic missive: Wednesday he received notice from Napster Inc. that he was barred from using the program on Metallica's request.
Abbott is one of 317,000 users trying to get their accounts reinstated either by requests to the company or by using a number of backdoor plans that have been spreading around the Net.
Only The Beginning
Thousands more Napster users can expect to be blocked in the days ahead, according to Howard King, lawyer for Metallica and rapper Dr. Dre.
Dr. Dre plans to send Napster his own list of alleged copyright infringers next week, King said.
Napster will block those users as well, lawyer Laurence Pulgram said, adding that Napster has no choice.
The volleys with musicians began last month, when Metallica and Dr. Dre filed separate lawsuits against the San Mateo, Calif., company, claiming its namesake software enables copyright infringement by allowing users to trade near-CD-quality MP3 files without the artists' permission.
Napster promised to block access to its service for anyone Metallica said was using it to trade their work. The action is part of the Napster copyright policy and a position the company hopes will bolster its case in yet another copyright suit filed by the Recording Industry Association of America.
But no sooner had Napster blocked users than the users began spreading word of how to have their accounts reinstated.
Some strategies were posted to bulletin boards on Napster's own Web site (www.napster.com). The company has since blocked those posts.
Others, including David Weekly, a music technology consultant and Stanford University senior, have posted additional strategies for banned users to get reconnected, such as deleting certain files and reinstalling older versions of the software.
"Is anyone surprised?" said Gayle Fine, a spokesperson for Metallica at Q Prime Management.
Countermeasures And Backlash
Napster does have a policy, in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, allowing users who believe they have been unfairly blocked to apply for reinstatement.
In accordance with the policy, the company passes on those users' names to Metallica, and if the band does not respond with a lawsuit against individual users in 1014 days, their access to Napster is unblocked.
Abbott immediately submitted his "counter-notification." He said he's hoping that he'll get his account back and that Metallica will make good on their promise not to sue their fans.
"If they try to sue me there's not much they can get," he said.
Pulgram said Napster has received a "significant number" of counter-notifications and would make an announcement about them next week.
Neither the band nor the company has endeared itself to fans, who harbor grudges against Metallica for cracking down and Napster for following through on the group's request for bans.
Some fans are striking back, trying to make future crackdowns harder. Abbott, for one, said that now all the songs listed as Metallica in his Napster computer folder are actually cuts by country singer Willie Nelson.