Napsters backers under attack Programmer's Rights8/15/2000; 3:48:15 PM 'THE legal juggernaut set in motion by the recording industry to rid itself of Napster is threatening to take with it more than just the upstart firm whose software enables music fans to share each others CD collections free on the Internet. If, as seems likely following a hostile ruling a fortnight ago, Napster is fined for music piracy, the way could be open for action against both its investors and the developers of any software that might be used to undermine copyright. 'For now, the ruling that Napster must immediately remove all copyrighted material from its site (in effect closing the service down) is stayed until the case reaches the appeal court, from where it will almost certainly move to the Supreme Court. If, as expected, things go badly for Napster in the higher courts, litigious music and film companies will most likely turn their sights on the venture-capital firm that backed Napster, Hummer Winblad, and the programmers who made Napster possible.'Big problems! This could restrain freedom every bit as much as patents do, and extend it out to investors, who need to worry about the legal liability the investments could open them up to.