More headaches for Napster with Songbird launch

Songbird, a free software utility designed to help artists search the song database of beleaguered file-swapping service Napster Inc. to pinpoint whether their copyright songs are available for downloading, was made available to the public Wednesday.

Designed by Travis Hill, a 20-year-old, self-described musician and Internet entrepreneur, the Songbird software was launched with the backing of record-industry watchdog, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) and is being made available for download online at

Hill, who is founder and head of Utah-based technology company Media Enforcer LLC, said that the Songbird software is intended to help artists, record companies and publishers protect their copyright material by giving them a search tool that can identify the songs in Napster’s databases. Media Enforcer focuses on copyright-protection technology.

According to Hill, thousands of individual songs titles can be searched on Napster within minutes. To use the search function, however, you have to have a valid Napster user login. The software can also find spelling variations of songs, such as songs saved with file names in Pig Latin, Hill said. Though Songbird currently only works in conjunction with the Napster service, it will eventually be extended to work on other peer-to-peer music services such as Gnutellla, Hill said.

Napster was sued in late 1999 by the five major record labels for copyright infringement and has since been locked in a legal battle which has forced the company to institute filters in its software to prevent the trading of copyright materials.

On Sunday, Napster launched its beta version 10 of its software with new “digital fingerprinting” technology. The software builds a database of music based on acoustic fingerprints, the data that represent the unique sound recording of a file, and is the first step towards full digital fingerprinting, Napster said.

MP3 music file downloads on the Napster service dropped 36 percent in April compared to March, according to Internet research firm Webnoize Inc., and last Friday Napster also confirmed that it is in talks with Microsoft Corp. to use the software maker’s music copyright protection technology.

The IFPI, in London, can be contacted at Napster, in Redwood City, Calif., can be reached at Media Enforcer, in Utah, can be contacted at Songbird can be downloaded from

(Scarlet Pruitt in Boston contributed to this story.)