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Napster Enlists Gracenote To Help With Injunction

Controversial song-swap company Napster Tuesday said it reached an agreement with Gracenote Inc., a maker of music recognition services, to help it exclude files from its popular service to comply with a court-ordered injunction.

Napster said it has been exploring a partnership with Gracenote for months and expects the partnership to enhance its file-filtering efforts. “We are leaving no stone unturned in our efforts to comply with the court’s injunction,” Napster chief executive officer Hank Barry said.

Napster is using a screening process that matches file names with artist and title names. Users create new file names as they download songs on the service, which enables fans to swap songs for free by trading MP3 files, a compression format that turns music on compact discs into small digital files.

Many users have already figured out new ways to spell file names – such as substituting the song title “Un4given” for”Unforgiven” – thus getting around the screening mechanism.

David Hyman, president of Berkeley, Calif.-based Gracenote said his company was building a custom application to provide Napster with an extensive list of such file name variations.

Hyman said Gracenote’s list of music song titles was developed by its CDDB subsidiary.

CDDB’s database consists of nine million songs and 850,000 albums and is widely used by personal computer users who convert CDs into MP3 files. The CDDB program computes the time signature of tracks on a CD and then matches that pattern to its database, displaying the right name of a song to a user.

While CDDB had no prior use for the misspellings of songs, Hyman said the company nevertheless saved them. “My whole company is built on a bunch of anal retentive engineers,” Hyman said. Gracenote employs 50 people.

“The great thing is we have every misspelling and possible variant for every file. For example, we have 50 different ways to spell ‘N Sync because our data base is based on user submissions,” Hyman said. Variations of the teen pop band’s spelling for example could look like N+Sync or n-sinc.

Barry on Monday said Napster had so far screened 115,000 unique file names, representing 26,000 songs with artists and titles associated with them since March 4.

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