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Hank Barry is not one to let silicon form under his feet. Last year the Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati copyright and entertainment law partner decided to take a turn as a venture capitalist. But in May, his new partners at San Francisco’s Hummer Winblad Venture Partners made him the interim chief executive of Napster, Inc., the famously embattled MP3 music file-sharing platform. Why is a copyright lawyer running a site that makes it easy for others to violate copyright? Hummer Winblad’s investment in the company is at risk. Who better than Barry, 51, to persuade Napster’s critics, including Dr. Dre and Metallica, that the site is not just a haven for pirates? “My top priority is finding a way together with artists and their record companies,” Barry says. “I’m here to seek cooperation, not confrontation.” Barry has not had any time to enjoy the perks of a chief executive. “This world works on Internet time,” says Barry via wireless e-mail while rushing to his next flight. “Lots of change happens quickly, which I enjoy.” Even as a lawyer, Barry had a hard time sitting still. He hopped from New York’s Paul Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison to Palo Alto’s Cooley Godward and then to Wilson Sonsini before leaving law altogether. Barry’s background comes in handy at a time when Napster’s future rests largely with federal judge Marilyn Hall Patel of San Francisco. She is hearing a copyright infringement suit brought against Napster by the major record labels. Barry says that he is involved with “legal planning” and talks with Napster’s counsel at Palo Alto’s Fenwick & West. But he won’t comment on the litigation. His job, he says, is to create a business model that is good for both Napster, which is losing money, and the entertainment industry. Barry won’t say how he plans to achieve those goals. What might tomorrow’s Napster look like? Says Barry: “We are part of a file- and information-sharing revolution in general. This is the next generation of [Internet] applications.” Barry’s world does not turn only around large strategy issues. “I deal with things like the building custodians in addition to more theoretical issues,” he says. One thought that doesn’t cross his mind is returning to the law. Says Barry: “My favorite role is the role I am playing today — CEO of Napster.” Tomorrow is another story.

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