FEDERAL appeals court gives Napster go-ahead to resume online song-swapping service

Thursday, July 19th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Napster Inc. says it is uncertain whether it will resume its free online song-swapping service despite getting the green light from a federal appeals court.

``We have no immediate comment on when we are going to start,'' Napster spokeswoman Ricki Seidman said.

On Wednesday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a federal judge's ruling ordering the company to remain offline until it can fully comply with an injunction to remove all copyright music.

The uncertainty of Napster's free service comes as the Redwood City-based company prepares to start a paid subscription service later this year.

U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel issued the order July 11 in a court hearing in which Napster said it was about to restart its music-sharing service after a short hiatus to retool song-screening software.

Napster, sued by the recording industry in 1999 for copyright infringement, said it could now block more than 99 percent of all infringing song files. But Patel told Napster it needed to block 100 percent of unauthorized, copyright songs or stay offline indefinitely.

Napster immediately sought relief from the appeals court, which overturned Patel in a two-sentence order.

Napster's song-sharing service has been down since July 2.

In February, the appeals court modified another of Patel's orders demanding Napster remove all protected works from its site. The court said Napster must remove the works, but only after the recording industry notified Napster which files on its servers contained copyright songs.

Napster reminded the appeals court of that earlier ruling when it asked the appeals court to lift Patel's most recent order.

The Recording Industry Association of America, meanwhile, noted that the court only temporarily lifted Patel's order and will hear arguments on the case later this year.

``We are confident that after a thorough review, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will uphold Judge Patel's decision,'' RIAA attorney Cary Sherman said.

Sherman added that the three-judge panel's decision still requires Napster to remove copyright works that both Patel and the appeals court have found were violating copyright laws.