Punk Band Offspring Causes Stir with Web Giveaway

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Friday September 15 5:07 PM ET

Punk Band Offspring Causes Stir with Web Giveaway


By Sue Zeidler

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Punk band Offspring said on Friday it will give away a new album on the Web, hitting a sour note with a recording industry fighting a landmark copyright case against Internet song-swap service Napster (news - web sites), which it accuses of promoting online piracy.

Offspring's strategy directly contradicts the recording industry's argument that Napster's technology is hurting sales by enabling fans to get music for free.

Sony Corp.'s Sony Music, which distributes Offspring and is one of the five big labels suing Napster, told the band to cancel the giveaway but the band has refused, industry sources said.

``Digital downloading is not hurting CD sales,'' said Offspring's manager Jim Guerinot.

Redwood City, Calif.-based Napster's service lets fans swap songs for free by trading MP3 files, a compression format that turns music on compact discs into small computer files.

Back in 1998, Offspring wanted to put MP3 files of its ''Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)'' single on their Web site before releasing it to radio stations, but Sony opposed it.

The song became a huge hit and one of the mostly frequently downloaded singles of all time on Napster and other Web sites, while sales of Offspring's ``Americana'' 1998 album skyrocketed at retail stores.

Offspring now believes that making its new album available for free on the Web will boost sales when the CD hits stores on November 14. Furthermore, it will let Offspring identify who is downloading its music, Guerinot said.

``This album is going to end up on the Internet anyway, whether we like it to or not,'' said Guerinot. ``We want to beat them (Napster) to the punch and find out who our fans are.''

The whole album will be posted by late October, while ''Original Prankster,'' a single from the new CD, will be available for downloading next Friday, when Offspring launches a contest giving fans a chance to win $1 million by downloading the single and registering their e-mail address with the band.

Some analysts said the scheme could hurt the industry's case against Napster. In July, a U.S. District Court issued a preliminary injunction ordering Napster to ban all big labels' songs from its service, which would have effectively shut it down.

Napster won a last-minute reprieve and an appeals court has set October 2 for the two sides to make oral arguments.

In a statement, Sony said, ``while the band has come up with a million-dollar idea for their fans and we're excited about the contest, we have very real concerns when it comes to unsecured downloading of music and piracy on the Internet. We're hopeful that we can arrive at a method that will protect everyone's rights and still maintain the integrity of the band's idea.''

Offspring is among a growing list of musical acts, including Limp Bizkit and rapper Chuck D., who have come out in favor of Napster and its technology.

``The Offspring view of MP3 technology and programs like Napster as a vital and necessary means to promoting music and fostering better relationship with our fans,'' the band says on its Web site at (http:www.offspring.com).

In firing the latest salvo in the landmark battle with the recording industry, Napster on Wednesday told a federal appeals court the case boiled down to the industry's efforts to keep a ''chokehold'' on music promotion and distribution.

Napster on Friday had no immediate comment on Offspring's plans but announced several alliances with artists and record labels, including a pact with Kramden Enterprises to help promote a new album from the rock band Primitive Radio Gods.

``We think Napster is the most exciting thing to happen to the music community since Nirvana,'' said Jonathan Daniel, chief executive of Kramden Enterprises Inc. Napster also signed a deal with pop-rock band The Rosenbergs, and the band's new label, Discipline Global Mobil.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which represents the big record companies like Sony, Seagram Co. Ltd.'s Universal Music, Bertelsmann AG BMG, Sony Music and Time Warner's Warner Music Group and EMI, declined comment on the Offspring matter.

In its latest brief, filed with the Ninth Circuit on Sept 8, the RIAA argued that Napster's file-swapping service ''enables, encourages and directly benefits from'' copyright infringement on millions of protected works.

The U.S. Copyright Office and the U.S. Justice Department sided with the RIAA in ``friend of the court'' briefs filed last Friday, along with 20 groups from the entertainment, publishing and sports industries.

-- (hmm@hmm.hmm), September 17, 2000

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