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Saturday, 21 April, 2001, 10:21 GMT 11:21 UK
Napster pins hopes on music fingerprints
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Online music blamed for falling sales
The embattled music swapping service Napster is turning to new "digital fingerprinting" technology to help it filter out copyrighted songs.

The technology from Virginia-based company Relatable will help Napster identify songs by mapping their sounds patterns.

A good audio fingerprinting technology should not fall prey to the same kind of limitations that text-based filtering is vulnerable to

Ric Dube, Webnoize
It is a move by the music service to counter criticism that it is not doing enough to stem the illegal trading of copyrighted songs via the internet.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is not satisfied with Napster's efforts so far to stop millions of users swapping pirated music.

"Napster's apparent interest in complying with the court order is a good news for creators and seems to be a step in the right direction," said the RIAA's Cary Sherman.


Napster is struggling to comply with a court injunction to block unauthorised songs on its service.

Napster logo
Napster under pressure over filtering
At recent hearing, US District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel called Napster's efforts "disgraceful," leaving open the possibility of shutting the service down.

Napster has not said when it will incorporate the new system, although its interim CEO Hank Barry said the software had shown great promise. Currently, Napster is trying to screen out music by matching file names with artist and title names.

But users have been able to circumvent it by tinkering with file names or adding in extra characters.

"A good audio fingerprinting technology should not fall prey to the same kind of limitations that text-based filtering is vulnerable to," said Ric Dube of research firm Webnoize.

"With this, people will not be able to trick Napster by misspelling names or all the other ways they were using to get around the system," he said.

'Nearly 100% accurate'

Relatable chief executive Pat Breslin said its TRM software was nearly 100% accurate during a recent public test that involved 500,000 different songs.

"TRM will help ensure that the millions of music files transferred through the new Napster system will be accurately monitored, and it will enable the appropriate allocation of royalties," he said.

The RIAA is the trade group for the world's biggest record labels, including Vivendi Universal's Universal Music, Sony, Warner, EMI and Bertelsmann.

They say Napster is a haven for copyright piracy that is costing them billions of dollars in lost music sales.

Napster's service sparked a revolution in the distribution of music by attracting more than 60 million users. They can swap songs for free by trading MP3 files, a compression format that turns music on compact discs into small digital files.

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See also:

11 Apr 01 | Business
Judge threatens to close Napster
05 Apr 01 | Business
Yahoo joins online music venture
03 Apr 01 | Americas
Napster rallies its troops
03 Apr 01 | Business
Music giants form Napster rival
22 Mar 01 | Business
Napster faces new legal challenge
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