Napster founder Shawn Fanning, whose file-sharing software pitted him as a populist David doing battle with the Goliaths of the music industry, has found a champion in MTV. The cable network has hired

Napster founder Shawn Fanning, whose file-sharing software pitted him as a populist David doing battle with the Goliaths of the music industry, has found a champion in MTV. The cable network has hired filmmaker Alex Winter ("Fever") to write and direct a small-screen biopic for MTV Original Movies that will dramatize Fanning's life. As a teenager, Fanning created the Napster software program in his college dorm room that led to an online music revolution and his own booming Internet company, only to become the target of the music industry's legal wrath.

The deal with MTV gives the network exclusive rights to Fanning's life story. The Napster founder and former chief technology officer is collaborating with Winter on the screenplay, and he also plans to executive produce the telepic along with its soundtrack, which will be released through his forthcoming, yet-unnamed record label, sources said.

Asked who will star as Fanning, MTV VP of original movies Maggie Malina, who is shepherding the project, said the network is exploring all options, including the possibility of having Fanning play himself, though no decisions have been made.

In 1999, Fanning created Napster -- after his own nickname -- in his dorm room at Northeastern University in Boston as a way for college kids to swap MP3s on the Internet. He dropped out of college to launch Napster as an online business, drawing the ire of the music industry, which saw his file-sharing technology as a threat to record sales and artists' rights.

The company's legal troubles began in 1999 when the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) sued Napster for "facilitating copyright infringement." The next year, superstar rock act Metallica and rap impresario Dr. Dre also sued the company.

While weathering crippling legal battles, Fanning's Napster became a household name, and its inventor graced the cover of countless magazines, becoming the poster boy for online music file sharing. Fanning's company filed for bankruptcy this year after a last-ditch acquisition by media giant Bertelsmann AG was blocked.

Napster's legal battles are ongoing, and Fanning is now 21, unemployed and living in California. The MTV project -- which is aimed for the 2003-04 season -- will include Fanning's childhood, his relationship with his parents, and his life before and after Napster in an "innovative" and "unconventional" way, Malina said.

"We really want to take a look at what it was like to live and breathe that roller coaster ride with Napster while indicating what happened in his past and future -- not just for him, but for everyone who loves music," Malina said. "We really want to capture the adventuresome and pioneering spirit he brought to Napster in a way that is not the ordinary biopic. That's why Alex is great for it -- because he brings the creative artistic vision of how to tell this story."

Winter is perhaps best known for his acting work in "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" and "The Lost Boys." He then segued to a writing and directing career working on such films as "Freaked" and "Fever" and has also worked extensively as a music video and commercial director in Europe.

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