Napster Users Await New Feature

Sunday, March 4th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Millions of Napster users were still waiting Sunday to find out when they'd confront a new feature on the song-swapping service — a dreaded screening technology to weed out 1 million song titles and appease the courts and record labels.

But other online music users weren't waiting for the crackdown and instead started swamping other free services.

By early Sunday, Napster had not yet started blocking access to Metallica or Dr. Dre songs, or 5,600 other titles the recording industry presented to the company. Napster attorney David Boies told a federal court judge the move to block those titles would begin some time this weekend.

Calls to Napster were not immediately returned Saturday.

Napster said it wouldn't be easy to exclude the files.

``It is a complex technological solution that is very taxing to the system and will degrade the operation of the service,'' a notice on Napster's Web site read. ``It has involved a significant investment of time and resources.''

Music fans say it's a bad move.

``I think it's going to make a lot of people mad,'' said 19-year-old Andrea Gordon of San Jose. ``I think they're going to lose a lot of customers.''

Some said they would switch systems if Napster became a headache.

``I might just stop using Napster and try to get these other services,'' said Alex Densmore, a 20-year-old engineering student at the University of California, Berkeley.

Song trading on the Internet is not expected to die anytime soon — there are too many sources besides Napster.

``As other people are driven away from Napster, more people will go to these alternative file-sharing programs,'' Densmore said.

The demand for free music was never more evident than Saturday. On just one of Napster's 80 servers, 11,000 users traded nearly 2.2 million songs like Metallica's ``Unforgiven,'' which the band requested be blocked from the service.

Napigator, an alternative system that directs the Napster program to servers around the world, listed hundreds of thousands of users logged on sharing music.

Napster promised the song screening technology after a hearing Friday.

Intellectual property attorney Anthony Lupo said the time is right for the record labels to make a deal, on their terms, with Napster.

``By beating up on Napster too hard, they may force the people underground and never get the opportunity again,'' Lupo said.