Napster’s D-Day approaches … again

Napster Inc. continues its struggle to filter out copyrighted music from its service as the company faces a deadline Monday to demonstrate to plaintiffs and a U.S. District Court that it is complying with a pretrial court injunction issued last week.

Napster and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) met with a court mediator on Friday and Napster acknowledged it had, over the weekend, received the RIAA’s list of 135,000 individual songs for Napster to block, the company said in a press statement released late Sunday.

“The federal district court has issued a pretrial injunction ordering Napster to block the sharing of specific music files at the request of copyright holders (in most cases, record companies or music publishers). We’re complying with the injunction even as we pursue our case in court. We’ve already received some removal notices, and we expect the record and music publishing companies to send many more,” Napster said.

Last Monday, March 6, U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel issued an injunction ordering Napster to, in effect, continue with the blocking mechanism the company announced it had begun to put in place on Friday, March 2. The injunction calls for Napster to file a “report of compliance identifying the steps it has taken to comply” with the court order.

But as of mid-afternoon in Europe on Monday, music by a variety of music acts, including outspoken Napster opponents Metallica and Dr. Dre, as well as all of the singles on the current Billboard Top Ten, were available for download.

When Napster users search through other Napster participants’ music files they are actually looking at a file index stored on Napster’s central servers. While copyrighted songs may continue to be stored on users’ hard drives, the mechanism proposed by Napster is supposed to prevent those songs from showing up on its indexes, meaning other users won’t be able to download them. This did not appear to be the case on Monday.

The injunction put the burden of notification on the recording industry, requiring that music industry provide four things to Napster for songs to be blocked: the title of the work to be blocked, the name of the artist, one or more filenames the song was available as (on Napster) and certification the plaintiffs own the work.

Under the injunction, Napster was given three business days to “prevent such files (identified by the plaintiffs) from being included in the Napster index,” in which case Napster would use its “screen” to prevent other users being able to see the specific file in any database, thereby making it impossible to download.

Napster itself had pledged to put its filtering process up and running by Wednesday, March 7.

Issuing a statement at the time of its ability to block access to certain music files Napster said: “It’s not easy; it is a complex technological solution that is very taxing to the system and will degrade the operation of the service. In addition, it will result in the exclusion of a great many files that are authorized as opposed to unauthorized. It has involved a significant investment of time and resources. However, we believe it is superior to shutting the service down and disbanding the community during the transition period to the new membership-based service.”

Napster, in San Mateo, Calif., can be reached at The RIAA, in Washington, D.C., can be reached at