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The BBC's Karen Hoggan
"The record companies accuse Napster of encouraging piracy"
 real 56k

The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones
"Napster is a giant swap-shop"
 real 56k

The BBC's Kevin Anderson in Washington
"If Napster's closed down then there are sons and daughters of Napsters in the wings waiting to take it's place"
 real 28k

The BBC's Pallab Ghosh
"To some its about the very future of the internet"
 real 28k

Monday, 12 February, 2001, 15:43 GMT
Napster awaits court ruling
napster graphic
Thousands logged onto Napster over the weekend
A federal US court is only hours away from ruling on whether Napster, the online music sharing service, should be shut down.

We have great confidence in our legal position


The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals will publish on its website the decision on whether Napster should be allowed to continue operating while a copyright infringement case continues.

A decision is expected from the court at 1800 GMT on Monday.

The Recording Industry Association of America, the trade group representing record labels, argues that Napster illegally connects users bent on giving away copyrighted material without permission.

The court battle is being seen as the first big struggle over copyrights in cyberspace, and is expected to define how books, films and music are distributed on the internet.

Napster has remained confident that its service will withstand the legal test. A spokesman said: "We have great confidence in our legal position."

RIAA president Hilary Rosen said: "Monday's decision may finally clear the way for the legitimate online marketplace to thrive in an environment that encourages both creativity and a respect for copyright."

Last minute rush

Despite allegations of illegal trading via the service, Napster's base of registered users has exploded to about 50 million.

The popularity of the online music sharing services has challenged major record labels to consider different methods of reaching consumers online.

Napster was inundated by thousands of fans over the weekend ahead of the ruling.

Nearly 10,000 people logged on to each of Napster's 100 computer servers on Sunday, sharing nearly 2 million free MP3 song files, compared to a sample taken last July which found 7,300 users sharing 800,000 files.

Stay of execution

In a ruling in July last year, a US district court judge said Napster was guilty of wholesale copyright infringement and ordered it shut down pending a full trial.

But the appeal court granted a last-minute stay, saying it needed more time to consider the issues.

Industry observers expect that if an injunction is ordered, it could take days or weeks to take effect and that Napster's legal team will appeal against it.

If the injunction is overturned, the recording companies involved in this case could take it to the Supreme Court.

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See also:

10 Feb 01 | Business
Anxious weekend for Napster
30 Jan 01 | Business
Napster confirms membership charge
10 Nov 00 | Business
Bertelsmann approaches EMI
15 Nov 00 | Entertainment strikes Universal deal
18 Oct 00 | Sci/Tech
How to produce pirate-proof pop
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