Napster Isn’t Going Away – Not Yet

Napster fans can relax a little – the site will not be shut down.

The 9th Circuit and District Court rejected the recording industry’s argument that the popular Internet site, where users can download music, is inherently illegal. However, the court did order that the music companies must catalog the copyrighted-protected songs they want removed from the site, and Napster has three business days to comply.

“We intend to provide notifications prescribed by the court expeditiously and look forward to the end of Napster’s infringing activity,” said Hilary Rosen, President of the Recording Industry Association of America.

In a statement, Napster CEO Hank Barry said, “Napster will follow the District Court’s order. Even before the Court entered the order, we began making efforts to comply with what we believed to be the dictates of the 9th Circuit’s ruling… As we receive notice from copyright holders as required by the Court, we will take every step within the limits of our system to exclude their copyrighted material from being shared.”

“We will continue to press our case in court and seek a mediated resolution even as we work to implement the court’s order,” Barry said. “We will continue to seek a settlement with the record companies and to prepare our new membership-based service that will make payments to artists, songwriters and other rights holders.”

Beginning early Monday morning (1 a.m. EST), Napster began blocking music files using a filter that takes names of artists and titles and screens out files that match, but users were finding ways around the system by intentionally misspelling names. Several legal and technology experts predict some major hiccups in the process. The judge said that if any disputes arise over Napster’s ability to comply with the injunction, a technical expert could be appointed and another hearing would occur.

Napster’s legal problems are far from over, as it is still looking at a trial and possibly billions in damages. Yet now that an injunction is finally in place, analysts say the recording industry may be more willing to settle with the Internet company.

The landmark case is viewed as the first big battle over copyrights in cyberspace, and will dictate how books, movies and other forms of entertainment will be distributed online.