Tupac MP3 Pirates Beware

Tupac MP3 Pirates Beware

The estate of the late Tupac Shakur is going after online pirates who illegally post MP3 files of the rapper's music, or take online orders for bootleg records.| Lawyers for the late hip-hop artist's estate recently won concessions from online giant Lycos, which agreed to take down offending Shakur-related sites from the company's affiliated web host, Tripod.

"Lycos in the end terminated between fifteen and twenty MP3 sites, and fifteen to twenty non-MP3 sites," reports Shakur attorney Donald David. "When we provide Lycos with a more extensive list, they'll terminate those as well."

While pirated MP3 music files are rampant on the Web, few acts have aggressively gone after the offenders. David says that because Shakur is dead, his estate feels compelled to target online pirates as a way to "maintain the integrity of his catalog." That's been especially difficult since nearly two dozen bootleg albums featuring unreleased Shakur tracks have made their way illegally into the hands of fans, often through the Internet.

David says most of those unreleased songs are raw, have not been mixed and, often times, the samples have not been approved. The lawyer says the estate even found an example where the master of an unreleased track, featuring Shakur and another well-known rapper, was edited and crudely cut so the song featured Shakur and the amateur online pirate who was hawking the song as his own.

David says if the rapper were still alive, he'd back the online sweep. "He didn't appreciate being taken advantage of," he says.

As for Lycos' role, Shakur's attorney concedes the law is still evolving over what responsibilities Web hosts, such as Tripod, have over their pages created by separate individuals. In fact, in written a correspondence, Lycos' lawyer argued the estate's demands "represent an effort to impose significant burdens on the free expression of speech over the Internet and to use the intellectual property laws in ways that are fundamentally incompatible with the First Amendment."

Nonetheless, the company, "in the interest of facilitating a speedy resolution of your client's concerns," agreed to disable the targeted Web pages from Tripod. Brian Payea, a spokesman for Lycos, played down the conflict, saying all Web page operators sign a terms of use policy and that anybody found in violation is disabled. "We take down pages everyday," says Payea, who still stresses the company is not responsible for the content of the individually run sites.

"I don't care why they did it," David says of Lycos' move. "As long as they did it."