Napster faces its own piracy dilemma

Pop-punk band The Offspring, one of the few major-label acts to publicly defend the controversial company, is offering Napster merchandise for sale on its Web site--without Napster's permission.

John Borland Staff Writer, CNET News.com
John Borland
covers the intersection of digital entertainment and broadband.
John Borland
2 min read
Music-swapping software firm Napster is getting a small taste of its own medicine.

Pop-punk band The Offspring, one of the few major-label acts to have publicly defended the controversial company, is offering Napster merchandise such as T-shirts and hats for sale on its Web site.

Trouble is, Napster never gave the band permission--and one doesn't have to look far to see the irony as Napster fans continue to use the company's software to download pirated copies of songs.

Napster representatives aren't commenting on the band's action, other than to say the firm doesn't sell any of its own merchandise. But the move puts the small company in yet another uncomfortable legal bind.

If it files a lawsuit, or even a cease-and-desist demand that The Offspring take the material down, the company will risk being painted a hypocrite by its opponents.

But if it does nothing, the company could lose the future right to protect its name and logo from other, more serious imitators. U.S. law requires that trademark holders actively seek out people who are violating trademarks to retain legal protections.

Napster wildfire "It is a risk," said Phillips & Earlewine attorney David Given, who specializes in intellectual property cases. "If they don't police their mark, they risk losing their rights."

In case there's any questions, however, the band says it's still in Napster's camp. Mostly.

"The Offspring view MP3 technology and programs such as Napster as being a vital and necessary means to promote music and foster better relationships with our fans," the band wrote on its Web site. "(We're) dedicated to understanding our fans and are committed to developing the best possible Internet presence that promotes The Offspring's music and helps us stay in touch with the people who provide us with our livelihood."