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Napster To Put 'Protection Layer' On File-Shared MP3s

Napster disclosed key details of its future as a copyright-friendly subscription service Friday (February 16) – four days after a court ruling that may shut down the music-sharing service as we know it.

In the new Napster, which the company says will be launched “as soon as possible,” users will still be able to swap MP3 files ripped from their own CDs. But Napster will add a new “protection layer” to MP3s as they move from one user’s computer to another, allowing the service to control what users do with the files they download, according to a statement from the company.

For instance, Napster – which plans to launch the new service with its partner Bertelsmann AG, parent company of major label BMG Entertainment – may prevent users from the popular practice of burning their MP3s onto CDs.

“Today’s announcement underscores one key fact: the real questions about Napster’s future are economic, not technical or legal,” Napster CEO Hank Barry said in a statement. “This solution is further evidence of the seriousness of our effort to reach an agreement with the record companies that will keep Napster running, reliable, and enjoyable.”

A three-judge panel from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that Napster has to prevent users from trading copyrighted music, in a decision that upheld almost all aspects of a lower court injunction issued in July. That injunction arose from the major labels’ copyright infringement lawsuit against Napster, filed in December 1999.

Under the appeals court ruling, District Judge Marilyn Patel, who originally wrote the injunction against Napster, must immediately rewrite it. As soon as Patel issues her new injunction, Napster has said it may have to shut down its service, in part because it has yet to find an effective way of removing specific files from the system.

Representatives of the Recording Industry Association of America could not be reached Friday evening for comment on Napster’s plans.

Napster founder Shawn Fanning said Monday that Napster’s new service would continue its file-sharing tradition and would not restrict itself to music from any particular label.

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