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U.S. House to hold hearing on Napster, MP3s

A House committee will take a look at the influence of music-swapping software such as Napster and other MP3 companies on small record labels and other online businesses.

A House committee will take a look later this month at the influence of music-swapping software such as Napster and other MP3 companies on small record labels and other online businesses.

On May 24, the House Committee on Small Business will hold a hearing it says is aimed at figuring out whether small businesses can survive in the quickly changing online music world.

"A lot of people have been saying that the Net would level the playing field for people putting their music online," said Dwayne Andrews, a committee spokesman. "But if you give the music away, how are people going to make their money?"

This will largely be an informational hearing; the small-business committee does not have the power to draft legislation dealing with copyright or taxation issues, Andrews said.

But other legislators closer to the issue are beginning to take a hard look at what Napster and other music-swapping software is doing to copyright law.

see related story: Napster tests new copyright law At a recent meeting with digital music executives in San Francisco, Reps. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Dave Dreier, R-Calif., were given a quick lesson in the new realities of the online music business, which is trying to adapt to the spread of file-sharing programs.

Neither said they were ready to reopen the debates over copyright law, but both said they would carefully watch the court battles involving Napster and MP3.com.