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Thursday, 12 July, 2001, 10:27 GMT 11:27 UK
Napster shutdown extended
Napster is trying to install a music filtering system
Napster is trying to install a music filtering system
Song-swapping service Napster has suffered another setback after a US federal judge said it must stay offline until it can fully comply with an injunction to remove all copyrighted music.

Napster has already been out of action for almost two weeks as engineers try to fix technical glitches with its new song filtering system before reopening as a paid, legal service.

On Wednesday, Judge Marilyn Hall Patel told the service not to resume operations until the new filters were 100% effective.

Judge Patel's decision was inevitable given Napster's failure to comply with the court's order for so long

Hilary Rosen, president RIAA

However, afterwards, the Appeals Court also notified lawyers representing the recording industry that Napster planned to appeal Judge Patel's ruling on Thursday.

The recording industry will then have until Friday to respond.

Napster was successfully sued in the US courts by record companies who charged it with allowing users to infringe copyright laws through the free and unrestricted sharing of music files.

The new filters should allow Napster to block the unauthorised exchange of copyright material by recognising musical content - instead of relying on user-provided filenames.

But some industry observers believe Judge Patel's order could be the last nail in the coffin for the beleaguered Napster.

While we are disappointed by this ruling, we will work with the technical experts to enable file transfers as soon as possible

Hank Barry, Napster

"Judge Patel's decision was inevitable given Napster's failure to comply with the court's order for so long," commented Hilary Rosen, president of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Napster representatives said the company planned to comply with the judge's request to remain offline.

Napster chief executive Hank Barry hit back at the ruling.

"The court's ruling that Napster must block all file transfers threatens all peer-to-peer file sharing over the internet," Barry said.

Technical problems

But he added: "While we are disappointed by this ruling, we will work with the technical expert to enable file transfers as soon as possible."

Barry also stated that Napster, which shut itself down on 2 July, is aiming to have launched its new paid service by the end of the summer.

In March, Patel laid down a preliminary injunction against Napster forcing it to block copyrighted song files from its site.

The company's self-imposed shutdown was to enable it to sort out the technical problems that were hampering its efforts to comply with the injunction.

Usage drop

But industry observers say that the longer Napster stays out of action, the harder it will be for it to make a convincing comeback as a legal operation.

In June, it was already beginning to see a drop in usage as it imposed more and more controls, effectively changing its whole character.

In addition, many recording companies have been developing online services of their own.

But Napster has continued its efforts to win over the major recording labels ahead of its planned relaunch.

It succeeded in clinching a deal with major players EMI, AOL Time Warner and Bertelsmann's BMG.


All are part of MusicNet, a subscription joint venture with RealNetworks Inc.

Under the deal, Napster would be able to receive the labels' content once it was operating as a legitimate, royalty paying service.

And in June, UK and European independent record labels signed a worldwide licensing deal with Napster.

The agreement with the Association of Independent Music (AIM) covers music from more than 150 record companies, including artists such as Stereophonics, Moby, Ash, Paul Oakenfold, Underworld and Tom Jones.

But despite Napster's efforts, Rosen, who has led industry's efforts to shut Napster down, remained unimpressed.

"The ruling sends a clear signal to all infringers: any attempt to hide illegal activity behind the shield of technological innovation will not be tolerated," he concluded.


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See also:

03 Jul 01 | New Media
Napster forced to shut down
26 Jun 01 | Business
Napster signs deal with indie labels
03 Jul 01 | New Media
Aimster sued by film studios
28 Jun 01 | Business
Tax CD burners, says German court
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