Users down 25% in one week amid filtering

NEW YORK — Like concertgoers reluctantly heading home as the lights come up, many Napster users are heading for greener pastures as the company’s court mandated filters block more than a million copyrighted music files from the service.

According to data from entertainment research firm Webnoize, the number of Napster users on the system at any given time has dropped from 1.5 million in mid-March to 1.1 million as of Friday — a one-week decline of more than 25%.

Averages rebound

At the same time, however, Webnoize found that the average number of files shared by any one user, which had tumbled by 60% after Napster implemented its blocking technology, has rebounded from 71 to roughly 110 — implying that the users with the least files to share are the ones dropping off the system and that those who remain are renaming their files to avoid the blocking.

News follows Napster’s announcement that it had blocked more than 1.3 million unique files to date, as per an injunction issued by U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel.

In a compliance report filed with the court last week, Napster complained that the record industry’s submissions of songs and file names to be blocked were “riddled with errors,” including incorrect filenames and the transposing of a song’s author and title data.

The mistakes caused Napster to shut off access to many files that weren’t copyright protected, the company claimed. The two sides are set to hash it out in a district court compliance hearing on April 10.

In a footnote to the report, Napster also disclosed that it was in talks to acquire “certain assets” of Gigabeat, a service that helps users find music they like on the Net. Napster retained Gigabeat board member and Stanford U. professor Rajeev Motwani as a consultant to analyze the industry’s filename submissions.

Neither Napster nor Gigabeat were available for comment on the potential deal.

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