Napster Tastes Its Own Medicine

[SOUTH AFRICA] Napster, the service synonymous with copyright infringement and
intellectual property rights abuse, has filed its own trademark infringement suit. The
culprit? Napsterstore.com. The crime? Selling Napster-branded clothing without
Napster’s approval.

The irony is biting. Napster’s song-swapping service -which allows users to trade
songs directly, cutting out both the record companies and the artists that actually
produced the music- caused the world’s 5 biggest record companies, in the form of the
RIAA, to launch a massive copyright infringement lawsuit.

Even though Napster cut a deal with media giant Bertlesmann, 1 of the 5 plaintiffs, with
whom it is developing a fee-based music trading system, that suit still has to be
resolved. But the experience has obviously taught the music company a thing or 2, as
their suit targeting Napsterstore.com shows.

Napsterstore.com – a site owned and operated by Sport Service Inc. – offers T-Shirts
and caps bearing the Napster logo and sprouting convention-threatening statements
like “Download this!” and “Banned by some of the finest Universities in America,”
playing on the anti-establishment sentiments of Napster users.

Serves Napster right, you could say. But at least Napster didn’t claim to be the record
labels’ official site; Napsterstore.com boldly claims to be “the only online source for
OFFICIAL Napster apparel.” Nor did Napster claim to be supporting the record
industry, merely our right to trade music; Napsterstore.com tells us they “Support the
Revolution!” and asks us to “Tell the world you support Napster!”

Then again, Napsterstore.com’s violation of copyright is exactly what Napster is
accused of – and something many Napster users support, in the name of intellectual
freedom. Napsterstore.com might actually gain more customers by marketing its abuse
of the Napster copyright than claiming to be aligned with that company. And until
Napster develops a system that respects copyright and compensates artists (and
record companies, alas), they’re left tossing bricks about inside their glass house.

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