The universities were charged last week with allowing the free trade of copyrighted songs by failing to block student access to the Napster MP3-sharing program, thereby violating the Racketeering Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act. When IU and Yale agreed to block Napster access, Metallica dismissed them from the suit.

USC is taking the stand that it will allow its students continued access to Napster but only “for demonstrably legal purposes from designated university personal computers and under university supervision,” according to an April 21 statement from USC’s General Counsel office.

USC attorney Carol Mauch said, “There are some applications available at the Napster site which are clearly legal, such as the chat rooms focused on the various styles of music.”

As an Internet service provider for students, USC believes that under provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, it would have no liability in the pending litigation, according to the statement.

While the USC position appears to have left the door open for students to have access to at least part of the popular site, the Daily Trojan – – USC’s student-run daily newspaper – – reports that Napster servers are inaccessible from Ethernet connections in several dormitories.

Metallica attorney Howard King told the Daily Trojan that USC would be dropped from the suit as well if it bans Napster. It’s not clear if the university’s apparent partial ban goes far enough to satisfy Metallica.