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Metallica Attorney, Rapstation.com President Discuss Opposing Viewpoints in Napster Music Sharing Debate

Aired July 27, 2000 - 2:31 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: The Web's hottest site for downloading music plans to appeal an injunction that would shut it down tomorrow pending a trial. A federal judge in San Francisco sided with the music industry, which claims recording artists are being robbed by Napster.com. The judge's order applies only to Napster and not to other sites where Internet users trade music for free.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: This Napster debate is as loud as heavy metal, angry as rap, and, potentially, it could involve sums of money that would make the Beatles blush. It pits the property rights of recording artists against the appetites of music collectors, and the argument is far from over.

Joining us from New York, Walter Leaphart, president of Rapstation.com. He is a proponent of music sharing on the Internet. On the other side of the argument, Howard King, attorney for the rock band Metallica, which is involved in the lawsuit against Napster. He also represents the rapper Dr. Dre. Mr. King is in Los Angeles.

Mr. King, first, you're going to disappoint millions and millions of Americans who say, we're just sharing, we're not stealing. What are you going to tell these folks?

HOWARD KING, ATTY. FOR METALLICA AND DR. DRE: Well, I think that even when they said they were sharing, most of those people understood that they were getting music for free without compensating the artist that had created the music.

WATERS: So your reaction to the planned appeal by Napster to keep on keeping on?

KING: Well, everybody has the right to appeal. I mean, Judge Patel's a very go judge and she issued an extremely well-reasoned opinion yesterday. And she has a very good history of not being reversed on appeal. But if I were Napster, given what's at stake, I would appeal too. I think it's an important issue.

WATERS: And, in a word, what was the judge's ruling on this?

KING: That this is nothing but wholesale piracy and a business founded on piracy, and it's going to stop right now.

WATERS: Walter Leaphart? WALTER LEAPHART, PRESIDENT, RAPSTATION.COM: Yes.

WATERS: The judge is pretty harsh in her analysis of folks who run Internet sites like yours. What's your reaction to the judge's decision?

LEAPHART: I mean, basically, what people have to understand -- and you mentioned earlier about the copyright owners -- the artists are not the copyright owners, it's the record companies. And this is, I think, more of a bigger issue of control of the avenues of distribution that the majority of the -- the major four record companies don't control. And so what they're crying now is foul because, basically, the public was able to get hold of the technology before the record companies did, thus controlling -- sharing and leveling the playing field on the avenues of distribution for music products.

WATERS: Doesn't Metallica control its copyrighted music?

LEAPHART: They are one of the few. Probably less than 1 percent of artists sign to a major label that control their copyrights.

WATERS: Well, they're the ones bringing -- one of the ones bringing the lawsuit, so shouldn't they have a right to make the money from their efforts rather than Napster?

LEAPHART: Well, Napster's not making money.

WATERS: So who's making it?

LEAPHART: All they're doing is providing a service that people want. And obviously that 20 million people are users, there's something there. I'm sure Mr. Gore or Bush would love to have 20 million more people involved in their campaigns. So we have to look at the bigger issue. This is just the tip of the iceberg. You know, there are several other file-sharing softwares that allow people to share music, and we have to look at this new distribution as basically radio where conventional radio has been blocked out and controlled by the majors and major corporations. And this is about people being able to, on a global level, have the ability to get the music that they want and the music that they share.

WATERS: I'm sure -- yes -- and, Mr. King, I'm sure Napster's also's looking at the bigger picture. If they don't make money now, they certainly had planned on making money somehow on down the line, did they not?

KING: Well, I don't think the investment bankers put $13 million in the company as a public service. I think with the users that they had generated at Napster, they had hoped to make hundreds of millions of dollars but for this slight legal problem they had.

WATERS: There was one attorney who said that if there was a practical way of Napster complying with the judge's order in this case, that Napster could continue. Can you see, Mr. King, a way of that happening? This seems to be -- the up-and-coming artists would love to have exposure in the way Napster can help provide exposure.

LEAPHART: That's correct.

WATERS: It's the established artists who seem to be having the big problem. After you're established and making all this money, you don't want anybody taking advantage of you.

KING: Well, you know, listen, the judge said that Napster is welcome to continue to engage in non-infringing behavior, such as chat rooms and its emerging artist program. There are plenty of other sites on the Net that do the same thing, which is make music available for free from those artists who choose to make their music available for free.

WATERS: So, Mr. Leaphart...

LEAPHART: Yes.

WATERS: ... you will continue on. You will be providing music. So are you going about it in this practical way that this attorney said?

LEAPHART: Well, what we do at Rapstation is basically provide artists with the tools to share. We provide them a full list of the various applications that they can download so they can share their music. It's called the Swapmeet at Rapstation.com. And we're able -- we believe that sharing is good because the majority of the music around the world is not given the access that is controlled by the distribution avenues by the majors. And, you know, basically, the genie is out of the bottle, the bottle is on the floor, it's cracked in a million pieces and Krazy Glue is not going to fix it.

So people have to look at a situation where the record companies should be looking at how they can adapt to this scenario and utilize it as a promotional vehicle. That's what it's really about. And you've got conflicting surveys saying that they're being hurt by record sales, but then Jupiter says earlier this week that, you know, record sales are up and this is basically a way that people are able to sample music around the world.

WATERS: Well, we'll follow along and see how it turns out. An appeal is pending. Walter Leaphart and Howard King, we thank you so much...

KING: You're welcome.

LEAPHART: Thank you.

WATERS: ... for helping us better understand this sometime complicated story.

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