RIAA: Napster fails to comply

Co. 'aggressively complying,' counters CEO Barry

NEW YORK — Napster’s efforts to block copyrighted files from its system have done very little to stop users from accessing protected music, the Recording Industry Assn. of America claimed in a filing made Tuesday night with District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel.

The filing, submitted in response to a document filed to the court by Napster last week, “demonstrates to the court in great detail Napster’s complete failure to comply with both the spirit and letter of the injunction,” said RIAA topper Hilary Rosen.

The RIAA asserted that in a recent test of the Napster system, it found that 70% of the 7,000 songs it searched for, including such hits as the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” were available just by entering the artist and song name into the search window.

To improve the filtering process, the music industry trade group suggested that Napster seek out alternate technologies. Rosen said among the superior technologies available were those which weed out songs by a unique numeric identifier called an “MD5 hash” rather than a filename, and those that use digital fingerprinting to track files.

Stop ‘filter out’ method

Failing that, the RIAA suggested that Napster should abandon its “filter out” methodology for a more drastic “filter in” approach — allowing onto the system only that material to which Napster knows it has the rights.

“The court has issued an injunction; they have to abide by that injunction,” Rosen said. “The onus is on them to figure out how to do it.”

RIAA senior VP for business and legal affairs Matt Oppenheim said that the industry has provided Napster with information on more than 600,000 songs to date, but asserted that “every single one of those copyrighted works is still readily available on Napster.”

Rosen demurred on whether the Napster’s spotty compliance was a deliberate effort to stall the court proceedings until it can get its second generation, membership-based system up and running, but did say she thought the failure to comply was “willful.”

Thomas Middelhoff, CEO of German media group and Napster ally Bertelsmann, has said he expects the new Napster service to be ready to roll out by July.

1.6 mil files blocked

In a response to the RIAA’s filing issued Tuesday night, Napster CEO Hank Barry maintained that the company was “aggressively complying” with the terms of the injunction, adding that the company had blocked more than 1.6 million files to date.

“The RIAA’s call for a fundamental change in Napster’s technology is unsurprising: It is an attempt to change the subject rather than cooperate with Napster as the injunction specifies,” Barry said.

Napster on March 20 filed its second report concerning its compliance with Patel’s injunction against sharing copyrighted music files, complaining that many of the files supplied by the RIAA and the industry did not meet the specifications set out in the injunction.

Meanwhile, usage of Napster has declined substantially since the company began trimming filenames from its roster earlier this month. According to data from entertainment research firm Webnoize, the number of users on the service at any given time had sunk to 1.1 million by last week, from roughly 1.5 million before the filtering began.

Napster has until April 3 to respond to the RIAA’s filing, and on April 10, Judge Patel will hold a hearing to vet the compliance disputes between parties.

In the meantime, Barry and Napster founder Shawn Fanning are planning to attend a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also on April 3, to discuss digital media and intellectual property issues.

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