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Napster Blocking Users During Upgrade

Embattled Internet service Napster began shutting users out of its song-swap service this weekend unless they downloaded the latest version of its software using audio fingerprinting technology, a spokesman for the company saidon Monday.

“All previous versions of Napster have been disabled. We’re making this change as part of our ongoing effort to comply with the court’s orders,” a message posted Friday on its Web Site at (http://www.napster.com) said.

A spokesman for the Redwood City, California-based company said the latest version, dubbed 10.3, is a further implementation of its software using fingerprint technology to filter music.

The company has seen usage practically grind to a halt as it has sought to comply with a March 5 injunction that barred the trade of copyrighted songs on the once-phenomenally popular service.

The newest version is expected to enable users to trade songs that were inadvertently halted by its earlier filtering systems. These songs include material from independent artists and labels, which are not required to be blocked.

“It will take some time for our new filtering technology to identify files; so initially, the number of files available will drop. As more users upgrade to the new versions and more files are identified, more music will become available through Napster,” the message said.

Webnoize last week found that users shared an average of 1.5 songs each on Napster’s service, down sharply from an average of 220 songs shared per user in February.

Many people feel the changes are too late for Napster, which is attempting to make these changes and keep users’ interest alive head of a planned summer launch of a membership-charging service.

Many users have increasingly jumped ship, looking elsewhere at Gnutella-type file-sharing services like WinMX, LimeWire and BearShare and other services like Audiogalaxy for free music.

“This is so ‘rest In peace Napster,”‘ said one user when he saw the latest message posted on the home page.

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