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Saturday, 24 February, 2001, 08:09 GMT
Napster clones under threat
napster graphic
Napster clones under attack
The US record industry has set its legal sights on websites offering online music-sharing services similar to those of Napster.

The Record Industry Association of America, the trade body that represents record labels, has warned internet service providers that they will be legally liable for accommodating Napster-like services.

A RIAA spokesman said it had sent out letters warning ISPs that they could be charged with aiding in copyright infringement if they let users trade copyrighted music files through their services.

The action follows a recent ruling by a US federal court that the music file-sharing service Napster must stop trading in copyright material.

Cary Sherman, general counsel for the RIAA, said the action against the Napster clones, known as the Open Napster movement, was made possible by the ruling.

Software that mimics Napster lets users trade files. But they are especially hard to police, because, unlike Napster, they do not require a central computer for music sharing.

Legal date set

On 2 March, a federal judge in San Francisco is scheduled to hear legal arguments before issuing an injunction that would bar Napster from trafficking in copyrighted songs.

PC users
Injunction would effectively shut down Napster
That order would effectively shut down the service.

In an attempt to stave off closure, Napster has asked a full federal appeals court to review a three-judge decision that held the company liable for copyright infringement and that an injunction was not only warranted but required.

Napster argues the injunction against the company is too broad and violated its rights to free speech.

If the appeals court grants Napster's request for a full hearing before all of its judges, it might buy the song-swap service some more time.

Long-runnning battle

The RIAA represents the world's biggest record labels, including Vivendi Universal's Universal Music, Sony Music Warner Music, EMI Group Plc and Bertelsmann's AG BMG.

The RIAA first sued Napster in December 1999, calling the service a haven for piracy that could cost them billions of dollars in lost music sales.

So far, only one big music company, BMG parent Bertelsmann, has aligned itself with Napster.

Napster and Bertelsmann have tried to head off the legal action by making a last-ditch offer to the music industry, offering to pay $1 billion collectively over five years in licensing fees for a new, secure Napster service they hope to roll out in July.

The offer has drawn a cool reception by the labels. Instead, two of the labels, Vivendi Universal and Sony, announced plans to form a new company, Duet, to rival Napster's online music sharing service.

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See also:

23 Feb 01 | Business
Music firms rival Napster
21 Feb 01 | Business
Music firms dismiss Napster deal
21 Feb 01 | Americas
Napster seeks $1bn record deal
13 Feb 01 | Americas
Musicians celebrate Napster ruling
12 Feb 01 | Business
Court blow to Napster
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