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For some, file-sharing opens musical doors

Some indie artists back software firms in high court case

LOS ANGELES -- Recording industry executive Andy Gershon sees opportunity in the online file-sharing networks that most of his rivals decry as havens for music pirates.

As president of V2 Records, home to The White Stripes and Moby, Gershon mines such Internet distribution channels for new fans and revenue.''I might as well make as many people fans of our music, whether they illegally download it or not," Gershon said.

The US Supreme Court is to hear arguments Tuesday on whether the entertainment industry can hold file-sharing software firms Grokster Inc. and StreamCast Networks, which distributes Morpheus, liable for what computer users do with their so-called peer-to-peer technology.

Lower courts have sided with the software makers, which assert the technology is as legitimate as a videocassette recorder or a copy machine.

Several artist rights associations, music publishers, and musicians, including Don Henley, Sheryl Crow, and the Dixie Chicks, are backing the major recording labels, which accuse Grokster and StreamCast of profiting from a business model that depends on piracy.

But some artists, including Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy, see an upside to file-sharing.

''I look at it as a library. I look at it as our version of the radio," Tweedy said. He agrees artists should be compensated, but ''you try to encourage people to feel more like a patron of the arts instead of a consumer."

Kevin Martin, vocalist for the 1990s band Candlebox, credits a file-sharing song promotion with generating online interest for his new Los Angeles-based band, Kevin Martin and the Hiawatts.

''We're not doing 10,000 records a week," he said, ''but to see yourself go from 15 records to 62, it's pretty exciting."

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