30,000 Napster Users Say Metallica Are Wrong

One in 10 alleged copyright violators say they were mistakenly identified by hard-rock outfit.

Nearly one out of every 10 people Metallica allege used the Napster MP3-trading software to illegally swap the band's songs is disputing the claim.

More than 30,000 Napster users filed applications with Napster Inc., saying they were mistakenly fingered by the band, Napster said in a press release Tuesday (May 16).

"The fact that so many people have come forward and disputed Metallica's accusation that they did not break the law demonstrates that this is not a black-and-white issue," Shawn Fanning, Napster's

19-year-old founder, said in a statement.

Metallica lawyer Howard King said he's received notice from Napster about 17,000 of those claims, but he says he doesn't believe they were filed sincerely. "They're all bogus," he said.

King said rapper Dr. Dre, whom he also represents, will give Napster on Wednesday the names of about 239,000 users who he claims are illegally trading his work.

Metallica, famed for dark hits such as "Enter Sandman" (RealAudio excerpt), and Dr. Dre sued Napster last month in separate cases, each claiming the company's popular software enables music piracy by allowing users to trade near-CD-quality MP3 files of their work without permission.

Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich delivered the screen handles of 317,000 Napster users to the company earlier this month. Napster promised it would block their access to the popular program to comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Under the DMCA, people who believe they've been incorrectly identified as copyright infringers can, under penalty of perjury, notify their Internet service provider of the mistake. The service provider, in this case Napster, then must pass the "counter-notifications" on to the party charging copyright violations, in this case Metallica.

If Metallica don't file a lawsuit against individual users within 10 days, the users' access will be restored. King said there are no plans for any such lawsuits, because 30,000 lawsuits would be "a waste of time."

That means, in essence, tens of thousands of alleged infringers are free to possibly infringe again.

"This demonstrates to the courts the magnitude of the problem, and what a joke Napster's so-called copyright infringement policy is," King said. "There is absolutely no way to stop copyright infringement through Napster other than shutting them down."

A Napster spokesperson could not be reached for comment.