Bertelsmann addresses Napster Nazi charges

Bertelsmann and Napster said they "severely condemn any abuse" of the music-exchange platform. "The sharing of neo-Nazi ideas by Napster users to glorify violence is a violation of Napster's Terms of Use. Bertelsmann's E-Commerce Group will work closely with the criminal prosecution authorities to the best of its ability," Andreas Schmidt, chief executive officer of the newly-founded Bertelsmann subsidiary overseeing the Napster cooperation, said in a statement Tuesday.

The statement continued: "In Napster's file-sharing network, each user decides for himself which titles he will make available to other users .... Napster is merely the transport platform."

Bertelsmann and Napster announced on 31 October a partnership to develop a fee-based music downloading service.

The statement came in response to charges leveled by the Verfassungsschutz (Constitutional Protection Office) in the German state of Lower Saxony. The office is responsible for enforcing Germany's laws against incitement to racial hatred, under which much neo-Nazi music is banned.

"Napster offers today the platform for neo-Nazi music worldwide," said Verfassungsschutz spokesman Rüdiger Hesse. "I can easily download any title that's on the index [of banned music] to my hard drive, and burn compact discs of it." He added that previously, neo-Nazi music was exchanged "under the table" in the form of illegally sold CDs. "The biggest problem now is that everyone can access it," he said.

Hesse said authorities had little recourse but to appeal to the companies to stop the exchange. "We're pleased" with Schmidt's statement of cooperation, he added.

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