Dr. Dre Moves To Block MP3 Files, Not Napster Users

Rapper hopes to prevent copies of 34 of his songs from being available for trading.

Apparently hoping to avoid the firestorm of fan criticism that Metallica received recently for shutting down Napster MP3-trading accounts, Dr. Dre has asked Napster Inc. to block MP3 copies of his work from being traded on its software — but not to block the users allegedly trading that work.

Wednesday (May 17), the rapper/producer turned over a list of 239,612 Napster user IDs to the company, according to papers filed by his lawyer, Howard King. He charges that the users are trading 935,509 near-CD-quality copies of 34 songs, including "The Watcher" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Still D.R.E." (RealAudio excerpt), for which he owns the copyright.

"We would prefer that the specific offensive files be blocked ... instead of blocking specific users," King wrote in a letter to Napster.

Hard-rock outfit Metallica recently gave the San Mateo, Calif., company a list of 317,000 users allegedly trading copyrighted work using Napster, all of whom have since had their access to the software blocked. About one-tenth of those users have applied to have their accounts reinstated.

But unlike Metallica, Dr. Dre turned over a list of "MD5" files. Each MD5 is an electronic signature file linked to a specific MP3 copy of a song, according to King. With that information, Napster can block files without shutting down accounts, he wrote.

Because Metallica did not provide the MD5 information, Napster could block only the accounts of users trading Metallica MP3s, not the MP3s themselves. The move has generated bad feelings toward the band from several Metallica fans, who have been posting their complaints in online forums.

Napster links its users online, allowing them to search one another's MP3 collections for specific songs and download them.

Metallica and Dr. Dre filed lawsuits against Napster last month, charging that the company's popular software enables copyright infringement by allowing users to trade MP3s without authorization.

King could not be reached for comment.

Napster representatives had no comment, publicist Roy Dank said.