Judge Orders Injunction Vs. Napster

Thursday, July 27th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — It didn't take long for the first howls of dissent to be heard over a federal court order that will likely shut down Napster Inc.'s wildly popular online song-sharing service at midnight Friday.

``What's next ... shut down the free Internet?'' one music fan wrote in a Napster chat room. Another, with the user name UnrEvil, criticized the heavy metal band Metallica, which sued to stop fans from trading their music on Napster. ``I'm never going to buy or listen to their music,'' the fan said.

Chief U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel granted the preliminary injunction Wednesday at the request of the Recording Industry Association of America, which sued Napster in December for copyright infringement.

The judge said Napster had the capability to police the unauthorized trade of copyrighted music through its system, but failed to do so.

``They've created a monster, for lack of a better term, and that's the consequence they face,'' she said. ``I can't just let it go on.''

Napster CEO Hank Barry said the company plans to appeal: ``We intend to see this through in every venue, in every court.''

An estimated 20 million Napster users worldwide will be affected by the court order in the landmark battle over Internet technology and intellectual property rights. The order applies only to copyrighted music, but Napster attorneys said it would cripple or shut down the swapping service.

The injunction will go into effect after the nation's largest record producers post a $5 million bond against any financial losses Napster suffers from being shut down pending trial.

``I'm disappointed, but I think that there will soon be another way to download free music on the Internet,'' said Elisabeth Prot, a music fan in San Francisco. ``The recording industry promotes one single off of one CD. You don't really get to hear the rest of the tracks ... They can be either good or horrible.''

Napster, the dorm-room project of Shawn Fanning, has grown into a phenomenon, with a million new users each month using it to download free software that allows the exchange of music stored on personal computers.

Investors have poured in millions of dollars and installed seasoned music industry executives at the San Mateo, Calif., company that became an industry target because song file directories are generated via the company's computer servers.

The recording industry accused Napster of encouraging an unrestrained and illegal online bazaar. Metallica also sued, saying more than 300,000 Napster users had traded its songs online. Napster responded by blocking access for more than 30,000 people, but new users continued trading the band's music.

``We're elated,'' Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich told The Associated Press. ``Sharing is such a warm, cuddly, friendly word ... this is not sharing, it's duplicating.''

RIAA attorney Russell Frackman told the court that as the hearing was going on 1,400 songs were being downloaded each minute via Napster's software. As the hearing ended Wednesday, 757,000 files were being traded in 6,857 libraries — and that was on only one of Napster's more than 100 computer servers.

The RIAA estimates that song-swapping via Napster by people worldwide has cost the music industry more than $300 million in lost sales.

Napster argued that personal copying of music is protected by federal law, and that it encouraged the sampling of new music and new artists.

Napster's attorney, David Boies, also said the company would end up removing legally traded songs if ordered to eliminate copyrighted music traded through its service.

The judge downplayed such hardships and told Boies that the same ``bright minds'' that created Napster's technology would need to devise a solution to comply with copyright law.

The injunction will likely have no effect on Gnutella and other decentralized technologies spawned by Napster. With Gnutella, there is no center; song files are traded directly between a constantly changing collection of computer users.

For now, Napster remains the focus of a long-running dispute between copyright owners and Internet enthusiasts who believe information of all sorts should be traded freely.

``All of this litigation is really setting the groundwork for what is going to the future of the Internet,'' said Larry Iser, an intellectual property attorney.


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