Music file-sharing service Napster has settled lawsuits with Dr. Dre and Metallica, who were leaders in the fight to shut down the service.
The settlement ends all legal action between Napster and the musician plaintiffs, Napster said Thursday in a statement. As part of the settlement, Napster agreed to block files that artists don't want to share, and Dr. Dre and Metallica have agreed to make their music available "from time to time when an acceptable model is in place" for payment to the artists, Napster said. No further terms of the settlement will be made public, a Napster spokeswoman said.
Los Angeles-based attorney Howard King, who represented both Dr. Dre and Metallica in the suits, said money was not the driving force behind the settlement. The most important aspect -- from the artists' point of view -- is that Dr. Dre and Metallica are "finally receiving, in essence, an apology from Napster," he said.
Napster and the artists had been in settlement talks for more than a month before today's announcement, he said. The timing of the announcement, which comes one day after a District Court told Napster that it can't bring its service back on line until it has shown that it is preventing copyright songs from being traded, was a coincidence, King said. "I realise the irony in the timing, but today was picked as the day to announce it at least two weeks ago," he said.
The settlement is the latest step in Napster's move toward operating in accord with copyright laws. Musicians and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) have successfully argued that Napster violates the copyrights of artists. On Wednesday, a US District Court judge ruled that Napster must remain shut down until it proves that file identification software it is using is 100 per cent effective in blocking songs that should be blocked. Napster has vowed to appeal that ruling.
Although the legal struggle with music labels represented by RIAA continues, Napster suddenly took its service offline completely, just over a week ago. Napster still does not know when service will be restored.