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The Grammys, full of pomp and circumstance but never exactly on the cultural cutting edge, have finally joined the bandwagon of litigation hurtling at embattled online music resource Napster. The arrival of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, which filed suit on behalf of the Grammy Awards last week, will hardly spook Napster’s holy trinity of lawyer David Boies, CEO Hank Barry and founder Shawn Fanning. The academy’s claims that several performances from the recent 43rd annual Grammy Awards broadcast have shown up on Napster pale in comparison to the millions of violations alleged by the Recording Industry Association of America. But the dispute is a testament to the fact that for the first time in a long time, people were actually talking about the music industry’s annual self-congratulatory fete. That is due in large part to a duet by the gay-bashing Eminem and the gay Elton John, singing Eminem’s hit rap song “Stan.” That single and several other performances from last month’s show are mentioned in the suit. In recent years, albums featuring the songs of Grammy nominees have been produced, but none based on actual performances during the show. In the suit, NARAS states it is applying for copyrights covering the 2001 show. Like other industry moguls, the Grammy Awards saw in Napster stolen — or at least lost — opportunities. And typically behind schedule, when the courts have already digested most of the issues, the recording academy has sued in federal court here. This is not necessarily out of character for the Grammy Awards, which are famously tardy when it comes to what’s going on in society. Consider the best album award for Steely Dan’s flaccid “Two Against Nature,” a recording that comes 20 years after the band’s heyday. The Grammy Awards broadcast has turned into a sort of “sorry we forgot about you when you were good” party, honoring in recent years Carlos Santana, Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan, all past the peaks of their influence upon other artists and the world. But there is a small justice in the suit, one which softens one of the most egregious sins ever committed by the Grammy Awards. In 1988, the first award ever given in the category of hard rock/heavy metal performance went to Jethro Tull, a progressive rock band which saw success in the 1970s. Jethro Tull features a flute as its signature instrument. This is heavy metal? The justice was for Metallica, which plunged headlong into the litigation breach and filed suit against Napster long before the company began stealing headlines from heads of state. Metallica was nominated in 1988 for its classic album, “And Justice For All.” When it lost to Jethro Tull, the audience fell silent. If the enemy of the band’s enemy is its friend, then the Grammy Awards have made peace with Metallica.

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