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Napster, Labels Head Back to Court Wednesday

Major recording giants head to federal court in San Francisco on Wednesday to request a summary judgement against Napster in their long-running copyright infringement lawsuit against the song-swap company, lawyers for the companies said on Sunday.

“We will argue in front of Judge (Marilyn Hall) Patel on Wednesday, seeking a summary judgement against Napster on the issue of liability, which would in essence leave for trial only the amount of damages and the nature of the injunction,” said Russell Frackman, an attorney for the record industry.

Napster lawyers will oppose the request and argue for a full trial to determine its liability. The company faces potentially billions of dollars in damages due to the lawsuit.

The company’s once-phenomenally popular music swapping service has been idle since July as a result of the recording industry’s legal actions which led U.S. District Court Judge Patel to issue a preliminary injunction against Napster.

Sources close to Napster, which is trying to transform itself into a secure, membership-charging service, said they do not believe a summary judgement is appropriate. They want the case to be taken to trial because there are so many factual issues that need to be addressed.

The big labels, including AOL Time Warner Inc’s Warner Music, EMI Group Plc and Bertelsmann AG’s BMG, Vivendi Universal’s Universal Music and Sony Music, first sued Napster in December 1999.

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