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Tuesday, 13 March, 2001, 11:47 GMT
Napster deflects blame for delays
Napster user at her computer
Napster says it is doing its best to comply with the court order
Online music swapping firm Napster has blamed the recording industry for delays in blocking the free exchange of copyrighted music.

Napster's chief executive Hank Barry accused the industry of not playing fair, arguing that the lists of copyrighted songs submitted to Napster were not in line with a court-ordered notification process.

Most of the top companies in the music industry have sued Napster for copyright infringement.

After a long legal battle, a San Francisco court gave Napster 72 hours to install a system that blocks such activity.

Napster says it has installed a screening mechanism that matches file names with song titles and the names of artists. However, the company calls its efforts a "work in progress".

The song does not remain the same

The software firm is encountering a number of problems.

One is the sheer mass of copyrighted music out there. So far the big record labels have sent Napster lists containing about 135,000 songs.

But according to Mr Barry, not all of this information does comply with the format set out in the court order.

For example, about half the song details submitted by Sony Music did not have all the information needed to block them. said Mr Barry.

Another problem are the Napster users.

They are saving their music files under new names that are similar but not quite like the real song title or artist's name.

etallicaMay, Mmetallica

Napster's blocking mechanism can catch out some of these variants, but not all of them.

Fans of the hard rock group Metallica, which campaigned vigorously to close down Napster, have taken to spelling the name of their favourite group as 'Mmetallica' or 'etallicaMay' and similar variations.

Song titles are changed as well, either by jumbling the word order, introducing literals, inserting numerals or spelling names backwards.

Hank Barry said that "nobody expects us to get all the variants within three business days", and promised that the company was developing a software program that would continually search for new variations of song titles.

Ultimately, the system would "pick up 99% of the variants", he said.

The company also said it was talking to a company called Gracenote, which has compiled a database of song titles and album titles, including popular "misspellings".

Amongst the music giants, only one has struck a deal with Napster. Germany's Bertelsmann says it wants to use the Napster technology to introduce a subscription based service some time this summer.

Vivendi Universal and Sony have announced that they plan to set up their own online music sharing services, called Duet.

AOL Time Warner is also looking at ways to distribute its music online, although the firm's chief executive Gerry Levin has not ruled out doing a deal with Napster.

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See also:

12 Mar 01 | Sci/Tech
Coders prepare son of Napster
12 Mar 01 | Business
Napster in damages talks
06 Mar 01 | Business
Napster agrees to 72-hour deadline
02 Mar 01 | Business
Half of Napster fans would pay fees
10 Mar 01 | Business
Record labels pressure Napster
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