Napster voluntarily began filtering out copyright-protected material from its site at around 1 a.m. this morning, a mere hour short of the self-imposed deadline announced on Friday. The filtering comes after the company offered to block user access to select titles presented by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), music publishers, and musicians who oppose the service, including Metallica and Dr. Dre.
Although the RIAA and its allies asked that 5,600 titles be excluded, only a few had been filtered at press time. E-mails and calls to Napster today were unanswered, but MSNBC reports that the songs blocked today had been earmarked for removal from Napster's network prior to Friday's announcement.
Before the filtering took effect, it was business as usual on the site, with songs being traded freely and heavily this past weekend. MP3 addicts seemed determined to ensure they got a full dose of freebies before Napster's new self-policing policies went into effect. Clip2.com, a site that monitors peer-to-peer networks, reported over 64,000 users online on OpenNap at 11:04 a.m. Pacific Time on Sunday, with over 15 million files available.
Should the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) accept Napster's peace offering, the hot issue will then become who is responsible for identifying copyrighted files on Napster's network. The RIAA would prefer to provide a list of artists' names, songs and album titles, while Napster is requesting that they also provide specific file names identified by copyright owners. Each song could potentially account for a huge number of differently named files on Napster's system.
Once the file names are provided, Napster says it will take approximately three business days to remove the material from its search index.
The RIAA and Napster will meet before a mediator on March 9, and a hearing scheduled for April 10 will address potential class-action lawsuits from independent labels and music publishers.