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Napster Apologizes For Blocking Too Many Songs

If you’ve noticed that it’s getting increasingly hard to find just about anything on Napster lately, the file-sharing service has an explanation: it’s called “overblocking.”

Napster has been incrementally improving its filtering process since March, when a judge ordered it to remove copyrighted songs cited by labels, artists and publishers. But the service’s most recent improvements seem to be blocking large chunks of the English language, taking down indie-label music, concert recordings and other material that no one has asked to be removed.

In a statement posted Thursday on Napster’s Web site, the company blamed the problem on its efforts to keep users from evading the service’s screening system by making small changes to artist names and song titles in the names of files they’re sharing.

“That, in turn, has unfortunately caused substantial additional ‘overblocking,’ the unintentional removal of otherwise authorized works, for which we apologize to our users and artists,” the company said. “We will continue to refine our filters in an effort to avoid overblocking to the extent possible.”

In the same statement, Napster also warned users against deliberately altering file names by changing them to Pig Latin or by using encoding programs such as NapCameBack and NAPDecode. Napster said it plans to monitor users’ files for alterations and will boot people who consistently try to disguise file names.

A Napster spokesperson confirmed the company’s statement, but had no additional comment, and a spokesperson for the Recording Industry Association of America offered no comment.

Last week, in the wake of continuing complaints from the RIAA that major-label songs were still available on Napster, the company announced plans to begin filtering by musical content instead of user-defined file names.

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