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Judge Orders Napster Offline

Napster plans to appeal a crushing decision handed down by a federal judge that the company remain off-line until it can perfect its song-swapping system.

U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall shot down the notion that Napster could quietly come back online without 100 percent effectiveness in its song-screening technology after an injunction that it remove all copyright music.

Napster told Patel in a closed-door meeting Wednesday that it could promise more than 99 percent effectiveness. But Patel demanded 100 percent compliance to keep infringing music out of the hands of music fans used to trading the songs for free.

That means Napster will need to delay a comeback after being off-line for more than a week.

Napster CEO Hank Barry blasted Patel’s ruling.

“The Court’s ruling today that Napster must block all file transfers threatens all peer-to-peer file sharing over the Internet and is at direct odds with the 9th Circuit’s ruling,” Barry said.

“While we are disappointed by this ruling, we will work with the technical expert to enable file transfers as soon as possible and we are continuing full steam ahead toward the launch of our new service later this summer.”

Napster plans to comply with Patel’s request to remain off-line. However, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals notified recording industry attorneys Wednesday that Napster plans to appeal Patel’s latest order by noon Thursday.

The recording industry will have until Friday to respond to that request.

Napster’s service has been down since July 2 and there is no date set for its return online.

Napster has tried to comply with an injunction ordering it to police its system closely for infringing files, only to produce mild results. The company has been buying time until it can launch its much anticipated paid subscription service, due this summer.

The recording industry, which sued Napster in 1999 for copyright infringement, was elated with Patel’s words from the bench.

Hilary Rosen, president of the Recording Industry Association of America, issued a statement late Wednesday in response to Patel’s order.

“While we appreciate that Napster is attempting to migrate to a legitimate business model, its inability to prevent copyright infringement from occurring on its system has only hampered the development of the marketplace in which it now hopes to compete. It is difficult for the legitimate online marketplace to compete with free,” Rosen said.

Recording industry attorney Russell Frackman agreed that Napster’s latest improvements to its screening technology still falls short.

“Judge Patel made it clear that there should be zero tolerance and that the goal should be no infringement,” Frackman told the AP. “It is a message not only to Napster but to others out there that it’s not enough to say we’re trying and it can’t be done.”

Major labels will attempt to garner their own online following with paid online music services. Major labels Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group have formed a joint venture called pressplay. AOL Time Warner Inc., EMI Group PLC, and Bertelsmann AG are set to launch a competing music download service called MusicNet, of which Napster also is a business partner. Both businesses are set to launch later this year.

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