|Wednesday, March 7,
A U.S. JUDGE'S INJUNCTION ALLOWS THE SERVICE TO STAY OPEN,
BUT IT MUST BLOCK USERS FROM SHARING COPYRIGHTED WORKS.
By Reid Kanaley INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
TEXT: Napster Inc.'s future
became even more bleak yesterday when a federal judge ordered the company
to stop letting millions of users trade copyrighted songs for free over
Under the injunction by U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel,
Napster's online song-swapping service can stay open, but it must
rigorously block users from trading any copyrighted song whose title and
other identifying information is supplied to Napster by a record label.
Under the injunction by U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel, Napster's online song-swapping service can stay open, but it must rigorously block users from trading any copyrighted song whose title and other identifying information is supplied to Napster by a record label.
|"If it doesn't kill it
completely, it definitely marginalizes it," said Nicholas
Economides, an expert on the Internet and economics at New
Economides predicted that the ruling would drive even more Napster users to other music-sharing services, such as the decentralized network called Gnutella, which could be much harder to shut down than Napster.
Napster was hit on another legal front yesterday when the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, the producer of the Grammy Awards, filed a copyright-infringement suit. The organization contended that Napster facilitated illegal trading of music files from the awards show, including rap star Eminem's duet with Elton John.
As Napster's legal troubles have mounted, Web sites and software that provide similar song-trading capabilities - usually for free - have been reporting heavy traffic.
Napster claimed a small victory in the ruling, because it said the company and the recording industry share the burden of compliance with the injunction. But the industry, seeing victory in its 15-month battle against Napster, vowed to supply song titles and related information to Napster in great quantity.
"We intend to provide the notifications prescribed by the court expeditiously, and look forward to the end of Napster's infringing activity," Hilary Rosen, president and chief executive officer of the Recording Industry Association of America, said in a statement.
Hank Barry, Napster's chief executive officer, promised that, under terms of the injunction, "we will take every step within the limits of our system" to exclude copyrighted material. He also vowed to press the case in court and to seek a mediated resolution with the recording industry.
Napster's software allows anyone using the Internet to trade audio files in the MP3 computer format. The service was created in 1999 by a college student, Shawn Fanning.
Napster was so effective and easy to use that it soon clogged university computer networks and horrified the recording industry, whose leading players filed suit to stop it, claiming that Napster was cheating artists and labels out of royalties. Plaintiffs in the case include major record labels, the heavy metal band Metallica, and rapper Dr. Dre.
Napster, whose user list has grown to 66 million, has said it intends to offer a subscription-based service by summer that will pay royalties for downloads. But of the major labels, only German media conglomerate Bertelsmann AG has agreed to be part of that proposed service.
According to the injunction, once it has received notice of a copyrighted song file on Napster, the service will have three days to begin blocking it.
Napster's song-blocking task, however, may be fraught with technical difficulties. A self-imposed filtering system that Napster began using on a limited basis this week appeared to be easily thwarted by users who devised a variety of schemes for jiggering the names of song titles and artists.
"So far, it doesn't seem to be that effective," said Malcolm Maclachlan, an analyst at the research firm International Data Corp. "It raises the question as to whether Napster is liable for clever behavior by its users."
The California company has until next week to report on its compliance with the order. It has also sought to have its case heard by a panel of 11 federal appeals court judges.
The injunction had been expected since Friday, when Patel held a hearing on the matter in her San Francisco courtroom. Her injunction order, dated Monday, was posted on a court Web site yesterday.
Fans and detractors posted messages on the company's Web site yesterday to comment on the legal action.
Free online music sharing "is here to stay," someone identified only as Headidiot wrote. "Because of that simple fact, the millions of people on the Internet aren't going to stop trading music because of Napster's woes."
Another writer said supporters of the service who claimed that it had not catered to music pirates were wrong. "You also know . . . well that 99 percent of Napster owners are using it to copy copyrighted material without the owners' permission. Napster tried this same lame argument and failed," the writer said.
Napster's days are numbered, said Jorge Gonzalez, whose zeropoid.com site monitors developments in the music-download arena. But alternatives are going to thrive, Gonzalez said.
"OpenNap is still alive and running," he said. "Other servers are popping up outside the U.S. They're popping up every day, and that technology is continuing to grow."
Reid Kanaley's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article contains information from the Associated Press and Reuters.
There are scores of alternatives to Napster for finding and sharing music files over the Internet. Here are some of the popular ones:
* Gnutella: Allows file sharing among computers without the need for a Napster-like central server. Early versions of the software were deemed geek-oriented. It works for movie clips and other files in addition to MP3 audio.
* BearShare: An alternative (and some say much simpler) software for using the Gnutella system.
* iMesh: One of the most-downloaded Napster-like alternatives. Like the Gnutella alternatives, it can be set up to seek and share files other than MP3s.
* Audiogalaxy Satellite: A server-based MP3 sharing system like Napster. Added features are meant to streamline the download process. For example, if a download is interrupted, the software searches for another source of the same song and resumes the download.
* Napigator: Another Napster-like system, but in this case the OpenNap servers are operated by volunteers, not a single company, and thus harder to shut down.
* Aimster: Adds file-sharing capabilities and access to the Gnutella network to AOL Instant Messenger.
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