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Record Industry Says Napster Filter Is A Failure

The U.S. recording industry accused Napster of willfully ignoring a federal judge’s order to block copyrighted material, saying the Internet song-swap service was still facilitating the trade of millions of illegal music files.

In papers filed at the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, which this month instructed Napster to stop trading copyrighted material, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) said it saw no evidence of compliance.

“There is no effective filtering out of copyrighted works operating now within Napster. We believe it is willful,” RIAA President Hilary Rosen told a telephone news conference.

Napster President and CEO Hank Barry issued a statement rejecting the RIAA’s accusation as “an attempt to change the subject rather than cooperate with Napster as the injunction specifies.”

Under the injunction issued by U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel on March 5, Napster must block copyrighted songs that have been identified by the record companies, which first filed the landmark copyright infringement suit against the wildly popular service in December 1999.

The world’s biggest record labels

including Vivendi Universal’s Universal Music, Sony Music Warner Music EMI Group Plc and Bertelsmann AG’s BMG

have collectively sent the company lists of some 8 million file names covering roughly 600,000 copyrighted works.

Napster uses 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 them to swap songs for free using the MP3 compression format, which translates music on CDs into a digital file.

But the RIAA charged on Tuesday this method was “archaic” and designed to circumvent the judge’s order by allowing users to keep trading music by tinkering with the file names

turning Elvis Presley into Elivs Presley, for instance.

Out of a test group of some 7,000 copyrighted works, the RIAA said it was able to find at least 70 percent listed on Napster under their correct titles and the remaining 30 percent under slight title variations.

“Calling this type of filter effective is like calling an umbrella full of holes a hurricane shelter,” Rosen said in a statement. “It’s not working, it never will work and Napster should be ordered to implement an effective filter or to change its filtering method.”

The RIAA demanded that Napster adopt a different filtering method, either by incorporating digital fingerprinting to permanently “mark” copyrighted works or by simply turning its filter on its head to block the inward delivery of non-approved files onto the Napster system.

Napster, fighting for its life against some of the most powerful corporations in the country, has accused the RIAA of contributing to the confusion by submitting lists of songs without including file names as required by the court.

This, Napster said, placed a serious and inappropriate economic and physical burden on it.

Barry said that the RIAA’s call for Napster to adopt new technology ignored the service’s current efforts to block copyrighted songs, which he said had resulted in a 57 percent drop in the total number of music files available through the Napster music index at any one time.

He also repeated Napster’s call for the appointment of a technical expert by the court which could help determine what technological demands “fit within the parameters of the court’s order.”

“Effective blocking is an ongoing … process that we take very seriously,” Barry said. “Because of the recording industry’s continuing failure to comply with the requirements of the injunction and the massive volume of data they have sent … Napster has been forced to spend considerable resources attempting to identify valid notices.”

Napster has tried to block misspellings manually, and has also recently announced an alliance with Gracenote, which has a database with millions of song name variations.

Napster is hoping to survive until July, when it plans to launch a paid subscription service with Bertelsmann AG.

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