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apster Fans to Go to Washington April 3rd.

By R Menta- 3/27/01

One can make a very good argument that the trading of digital music over the Internet is the biggest grassroots effort in the history of the world. Napster’s user base alone contributes 60 + million members to that group and between the Gnutellas and Freenets, private Web pages, FTP sites and more, that number may be well over 100 million.

Napster has lost most its battles in court so far and with their actual copyright infringement trial coming up they need to find more ways to stay in business as the looming record industry attempts to shut them down.

With their April 3rd hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee coming up this week, the spirit of the 60’s looks to have inspired Hank Barry to tap into the one power that Napster has unequivocally on its side, the power of the people.

With that, Barry has turned the Napster Web site into a protest venue, fighting the cause through the leverage of free speech and the largest audience ever assembled on the Net to read it. Barry hopes to use vox populi to convince legislators in DC that Napster is good and should be given every opportunity to exist.

In reality Napster is good on many fronts, both for the record companies in terms of promotion (unless you feel you’re a thief for listening to and taping free music from radio and MTV) and for the consumer keeping in check a very powerful oligopoly.

If you go to Napster’s Web site you will find Napster’s latest strategic move, a call to the populace to attend an organized rally on the steps of capital hill in support:

A very special event is taking place next week. On April 3, 2001 in Washington, DC, the Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing about Napster and the future of digital music. If the Napster Community shows up in force for this hearing, it will help educate Congress on why it is important not to let the recording industry shut down music file sharing. You can give voice to millions of other Napster supporters by attending this hearingÅ  We need you, your parents, your kids and your friends to attend the April 3rd Senate Hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington DC. There will also be a teach-in the night before with Napster founder Shawn Fanning, and a concert at a local nightclub the night of April 3rd to thank people who come out for the hearing.

Along with this request a pop up window appears offering users who can’t attend the opportunity to help the cause by joining the Napster Action Network, the company’s first stage of tapping into this grassroots support that has been active a couple of months now. The Action Network asks supporters to write an email or letter on Napster’s behalf, phone a congressional representative, or join a local Napster Advocacy chapter. The company has also set up a toll-free number that people can use to call Congress and register their support for file swapping.

For those who can attend the Washington event, the itinerary goes like this:

On April 2nd there is a “Teach-in” that will presumably instruct supporters how to handle themselves during the hearing. The teach-in will last an hour and a half between 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm and will be held at the Columbus School of Law at Catholic University.

On April 3rd, the date of the 9:00 am hearing, supporters will meet at the top of the Union Station Metro escalators where they will don pro-Napster T-shirts and walk to the hearing as a group. An after-hearing concert follows.

How big the march for Napster will be is unknown, the company didn’t give a lot of notice, only about a week. The company is hoping for 1,000 people, but might fall short of that number. To up the incentive the company promises an after-hearing concert by yet named Napster supporting artists as a thank you for those who attend. Could those artists include the Offpring? Dave Mathews? Radiohead? Chuck D? Courtney Love? We do know that some of those artists will be attending the hearing, but no guarantees.

Even if Napster can lure 10,000 fans, it will be no Dr. King in front of the Lincoln Memorial. As for influencing the politicians, a sobering note. The music industry’s lobby arm, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), is one of the most powerful lobbys on Capitol Hill with a very seasoned staff and VERY deep pockets, both in terms of cash and political clout.

That means an uphill battle even with Senator Oren Hatch on their side.

Copyright 2001 MP3 Newswire