A parade of rock stars, record label executives and fans of the embattled Internet song-swapping service Napster are expected to pack Congress on Tuesday for a Senate hearing on online entertainment.
Among those set to testify in favor of more freedom for the music industry online is former Eagles band member Don Henley. Rapper and former Public Enemy member Chuck D was due to speak to Napster fans before the hearing at a rally on Monday evening.
Seventies rocker turned bow-hunting enthusiast Ted Nugent is due to tell lawmakers, along with EMI executive Ken Berry, about why Napster should be shut down.
But much of Tuesday's hearing may be overshadowed by the creation of a new, fee-based online music service by music giants Bertelsmann AG, EMI Group Plc and AOL Time Warner.
The companies said on Monday they were teaming up with Internet media software company RealNetworks Inc. to create a service called MusicNet that could be offered to Napster if it satisfied copyright and security concerns.
"Giving away someone else's music without their permission is yesterday's news," music industry advocate Hillary Rosen says in a copy of her testimony for Tuesday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that was provided to Reuters.
The MusicNet deal is one way the music industry is providing "legitimately licensed" music on-line, said Rosen, president and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America.
Two years ago, Bertelsmann and EMI joined the rest of the world's biggest record labels in a landmark copyright infringement suit that argued Napster was a haven for copyright piracy and would cost them billions of dollars in lost music sales.
A U.S. District court injunction issued on March 5 said Napster must block copyrighted songs identified by record companies.
Record companies and musicians such as the heavy metal rock group Metallica have since complained that the popular service hasn't done enough to block free exchange of their songs.
Napster's service, developed by a 19-year-old college dropout, lets music fans swap songs for free online by trading MP3 files, a compression format that turns music on compact discs into computer files.
The company is using electronic screens to block access to the songs, but users have found ways to get around them, such as deliberately misspelling song titles or artist names.
The Senate Judiciary committee wants to hear more about why Napster hasn't been able to completely block access, said an aide to Vermont Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy, who along with committee chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, sponsored the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Tuesday's hearing follows up one held last July, which also dealt with copyright laws in an era of digital downloads.
Fans of Napster will get a free pro-Napster T-shirt and ticket to a Tuesday night concert if they attend the hearing.