Napster fires last written shot in court case

Controversial music distributor Napster Inc. fired off its last written salvo before it meets with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in court Oct. 2.

The Napster brief, which was filed yesterday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, said the RIAA “disregarded key language in the [Audio Home Recording Act] and substituted words that better suited their purpose.” The San Mateo, Calif.-based company went on to argue that the act didn’t restrict “some primarily musical audio recordings” and that that copyright law protects free downloading of songs online.

Napster also referred to the Sony Betamax ruling, in which the Supreme Court allowed the company’s VCRs to be sold even though they could be used to pirate copies of movies.

“The recording industry is attempting in this case to try to maintain control over music distribution. By repeatedly refusing Napster’s offers of a reasonable license and opposing a compulsory license, they have demonstrated that they are not seeking to be appropriately compensated, but rather to kill or control a technology they view as competition,” said Napster attorney David Boies in the statement. Boies was the special Department of Justice attorney in its antitrust case against Microsoft Corp.

Napster’s shot is the latest in an ongoing battle between the online music file-sharing service and the recording industry. The fallout began July 26 when U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel ordered Napster to halt the sending of copyrighted material over the Internet. But the upstart service was given a reprieve by delaying the injunction, pending the results of Napster’s appeal.