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Napster, Record Industry Argue Over Enforcement

Online file-sharing service Napster and the record industry squared off again in federal appeals court on Monday over the fine points of enforcing the court-ordered restrictions on Napster’s now-idled service.

A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting in Pasadena, California, heard about an hour of arguments from the two sides on how to share the burden between them in policing Napster to prevent copyrighted material from being illegally exchanged.

A spokesman for Napster, which has been out of operation since July, said the service argued for three main points: that the RIAA should be required to provide Napster the names of specific song files that infringe on artists’ copyrights; that both Napster and the RIAA should be responsible for policing the service for infringing uses; and that a zero-tolerance requirement would be impossible to enforce.

Matt Oppenheim, the senior vice president for legal affairs with the RIAA, said the court spent most of its time focused on the file-name issue, and how it relates to digital fingerprinting, which is a method of identifying songs by unique characteristics when they are digitized.

“My sense is that these are new issues in some instances, and the court will probably render a decision, hopefully resolving most of these issues, fairly shortly,” Oppenheim told Reuters.

The court did not indicate when it might rule on the issues, he said.

Napster has been idle since July due to technical glitches it faced while complying with federal Judge Marilyn Hall Patel’s March injunction against the company, which bars the trade of any copyrighted material.

The injunction against Napster was issued by Patel, of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, after she refined it in response to comments from a three-judge panel from the Ninth Circuit Court.

The panel found an earlier injunction by Patel to be overly broad by placing too much responsibility for enforcement on Napster rather than the labels who sued for copyright infringement.

Napster’s free service, both credited and criticized for taking digital music to a mass audience on the Internet, let users swap compressed music files stored on their own computers.

To comply with the injunction, Napster contends it needs file names. But instead of providing file names, the recording industry has simply furnished song titles and names of artists.

“At the end of the day, we’re confident we’ll prevail,” Oppenheim said.

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