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The BBC's Dan Damon
"Free downloads are happening, legal or not"
 real 28k

Saturday, 24 March, 2001, 09:00 GMT 10:00 UK
Song blocking hits Napster usage
Napster user AP
Napster usage is falling
The number of people using the online song-swapping service Napster has fallen by a quarter since it introduced a music filtering system.

The service had 1.13 million users as of 22 March, compared with 1.49 million users on 14 March, according to US internet content consultancy Webnoize.

Webnoize analyst Matt Bailey said the study suggested that as the selection of songs shrunk, user interest in the music-sharing service was dwindling.

Since it started to block songs, the total files available for sharing have decreased by more than 50%, Napster says.

Filtering system

Earlier this month, Napster introduced a screening system to remove copyrighted songs from its system to comply with a court order.

Napster facts
Daily usage down 25% to around 1m users
Files available down by 50%
225,000 songs blocked
1.3m unique file names blocked
But while downloading on the service has dropped, record industry officials say Napster's efforts are inadequate since a lot of songs are still readily available.

They have also complained that Napster has failed to prevent users from side-stepping its screening mechanism by merely changing the spelling of file names.

The Recording Industry Association of America is planning further legal action this coming week, alleging Napster has not done enough in its filtering efforts.

225,000 songs blocked

Napster argues it is diligently complying with the court injunction, accusing the record labels of submitting many songs improperly, thus making them impossible to block.

"To date, we have blocked over 225,000 songs and over 1.3m unique file names," said Napster Chief Executive Hank Barry on Friday.

"We have acted on every compliant request within the time frame specified by the court order. As a result, the number of files through the Napster index at any one time has dropped significantly."

Napster sparked a revolution in music distribution with a service that attracted more than 60 million users, at its height, who swapped songs for free by trading MP3 files, a compression format that turns music on compact discs into small digital files.

The world's biggest record labels argue the service is a haven for copyright piracy that is costing them billions of dollars in lost music sales.

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See also:

22 Mar 01 | Business
Napster faces new legal challenge
10 Mar 01 | Business
Record labels pressure Napster
12 Mar 01 | Sci/Tech
Coders prepare son of Napster
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