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Booted Napster Users Want Back Online

Tens of thousands of Napster users who were denied access to the online music sharing software company at the request of the band Metallica want to log back on.

Napster Inc. officials announced Tuesday it received notice from more than 30,000 users claiming they were misidentified as persons illegally trading Metallica's copyrighted songs in the popular MP3 digital format.

Metallica had compiled 317,377 Napster screen names they allege were trading the band's tunes. The band's drummer, Lars Ulrich, hand-delivered the list of usernames to Napster headquarters in San Mateo two weeks ago.

Napster responded by blocking access to those listed, but it also posted information on its Web site telling users how to file a counter notification if they felt they had been misidentified.

"The fact that so many people have come forward and disputed Metallica's accusation that they did not break the law demonstrates that this is not a black and white issue," Napster's 19-year-old founder Shawn Fanning said in a statement.

Napster has begun forwarding the petitions to Metallica's attorney, who disputed the users' claims.

"They're absolutely lying. There's no question that they're lying," said attorney Howard King. "Each and every one of them was offering Metallica MP3s for uploads."

If Metallica does not take legal action against individual users within 10 days of Tuesday's notice, Napster will restore those blocked accounts, citing provisions in federal copyright law.

Napster has been at the center of the debate over online music and copyright law since it launched software that allows users to open their hard drives to other people who are online at the same time and swap whatever MP3 music files they have stored.

Because Napster officials say the service does not directly provide the copyrighted music -- only the means to get it -- the company claims its service is legal.

Metallica sued the company last month for copyright infringement and racketeering, alleging that Napster's software encouraged users to freely trade the band's songs without permission.

The heavy metal band isn't alone. Metallica's attorney said he expects another client, rap artist Dr. Dre, to notify Napster Wednesday of more than 200,000 users who illegally traded his music.

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