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Napster Hits Back

Napster’s CEO remains defiant despite increasing legal pressures from the recording industry and an apparent exodus of users from the system.

On the heels of Recording Industry Association of America CEO Hilary Rosen declaring that working with Napster’s style of file-trading (free and unsecured) was a dead issue for the record companies, a research report found that Napster users were beginning to look elsewhere for their music.

Napster’s Hank Barry insisted that, despite the new filtering technology, the file-trading company remains the market leader. He cited a report from PC Pitstop, which found that Napster was installed on 40 percent of the PCs on the market. The next nearest competitor, mIRC, placed a distant second with only 6 percent market penetration.

In what has become a familiar tune, Barry immediately sniped back at Rosen’s declaration that his company was irrelevant.

“As Napster continues to comply with the district court injunction, and while the record companies continue their drumbeat to shut Napster down or consider it ‘over,’ several studies have recently come out revealing that a very large number of people continue to use Napster and participate in file sharing,” Barry said in a written statement.

Despite increasing public attacks against Napster from the technology community, there are still companies that want to work with it to develop a music powerhouse.

On Tuesday, Kick.com upgraded its Music Companion program, which provides news and information to users on several file-trading programs including Napster and Gnutella. The Companion enables users to find and download music from other users and also get the latest news and concert information about their favorite bands.

The service also synchs up with the music being played in programs such as Winamp, RealJukebox, Sonique and Windows Media Player.

“Personalizing the user experience will be a key factor in determining the success of future media services,” said Matthew Skyrm, CEO of Kick.com.

The additional services come at a critical time for Napster, which has started to see support for its application fade as its filtering technology begins blocking copyright music from its system. In April, Napster use fell by nearly 36 percent from the previous month, according to the Webnoize research department.

That resulted in one billion fewer downloads than in previous months.

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