Unlike Metallica, Dr. Dre and other U.S. artists who have sought to shutter Napster and otherfree online music services, the Europeans’ primary targets have been the hardware and media thatenable high quality copying.

Pop powerhouses including the Spice Girls, Boyzone, Robbie Williams and Eros Ramazzottiwere among the European stars who pushed the European Union to pass stronger legislationprotecting their work from being pirated in the digital age.

The EU legislation passed last month makes it illegal to pirate CDs and download copy-protectedmusic from the Internet.

The legislation, however, has upset consumer groups because by technically narrowing thedefinition of “private copy” it has also limited consumers’ rights to make duplicates of materialthey have purchased, even for private use.

The legislation, which takes effect in each of the 15 EU nations after being ratified by thenational parliaments, allows countries to add fees for each blank CD or CD burner sold -mirroring existing laws in Italy and Germany, where additional charges of between 5 percent and10 percent are already being assessed.

The revenues are distributed among artists through national copyright societies, organizationsthat protect musicians’ interests and exist in Europe but not the United States.

The fees, however, have done little to discourage music lovers from downloading music inGermany: Napster usage quadrupled in Germany to 1.4 million users in January from theprevious June, according to analysts at NetValue, a worldwide researcher of Internet use.

Usage is also on the rise in Britain, where more than 1 million people use Napster, according toNetValue, with 760,000 in France and more than 650,000 in Spain. This reality is forcingorganizations that safeguard copyrights in Europe to come up with new strategies for protectingcreative property.

The powerful German copyright society, GEMA, is pursuing legislation in Germany that wouldadd a fee to PCs made in or imported to Germany, to counteract the revenue lost in downloadsfrom the Internet. But even those behind the efforts to protect creative rights recognize problemswith this approach.

Klaus Quirini, who runs a group that protects the intellectual rights of musicians in Germanypoints out that the same CD drives used to copy music onto writeable and rewriteable CDs havemultiple uses – including storing digital photographs or backing up data files.

“Even those who have nothing to do with music must pay to support this branch,” said Quirini,of the Association for German Music Makers said.

Mark Mulligan, a European industry analyst with the London office of Jupiter MMXI, part ofNew York-based Jupiter Media Metrix, thinks taxing hardware is not likely to be effective overthe long term. He anticipates strong industry and consumer opposition to any strategy thatcharges people extra regardless of whether they are copying music.

Consumer groups in Europe are fighting to loosen the new definition of legal duplicate, arguingthat it curtails the right of consumers to fully use material for which they have paid. Under the law, for example, record labels would have the right to code digital encryption ontorecorded CDs that would limit how many times songs from a legally purchased album could becopied.

The system has already been tested in Germany, where Hewlett-Packard lost a court battle toGEMA for not paying the royalties charges for its CD-RW drives, also known as CD burners. HPwas ordered to pay 30 marks ($12.90) for each CD burner sold in Germany since February 1998,and 12 marks ($5.16) for each unit sold after November. HP, which declined to say how manyunits and CDs were included in the ruling, is fighting the decision.

While it may take years to solve the debate, copyright societies and industry supporters alikerealize the need to turn digital technology, including the Internet, into a tool that is beneficial foreveryone.

“The industry is desperately trying to find a common ground, everyone recognizes the need tohave a common voice,” said Mulligan.