PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University will not, at this time, restrict student access to the Internet, including the controversial Web site, Napster. The site is popular with students nationwide who are able to exchange recorded music files.

WSU received a request Sept. 11 from attorneys representing music groups that are suing Napster. The letter was sent to a number of universities, asking them to ban access to the site on university-owned or -controlled networks. A reply has been sent outlining the university’s position.

“The Internet is a resource that is an important part of the modern learning environment,” said President V. Lane Rawlins. “We cannot presume that students are using the Internet for illegal purposes.”

WSU policy specifically prohibits the use of its electronic resources to violate copyright law. Rawlins cautioned that students who engage in illegal activities, such as copyright infringement, could face individual consequences. He said that if the university becomes aware of specific instances of illegal activity, then appropriate action will be taken.

Attorneys in the Washington State Attorney General’s Office at WSU caution users not to assume that Napster can be legally used to download and share copyrighted files. While Napster can be used to download many files that are not copyright protected, the legality of using Napster to download copyrighted files is currently being litigated. The attorneys representing the music groups in these lawsuits allege that sharing copyrighted MP3 files via Napster violates the Copyright Act. The Washington Attorney General’s office is monitoring legal decisions relating to the issue. WSU may elect to restrict access to Napster or other Internet sites if legal developments warrant such action in the future.