Napster filter deadline looms as downloads continue

Napster's proposal was announced Friday in a San Francisco District Court by Napster attorney David Boies, after US District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel said she will issue a revised ruling to her original judgement from last July, a ruling which would have effectively shut Napster down for assisting in the widespread violation of music copyrights. "Napster is ready to implement this proposal within three business days of this order," Napster said on its Web site, giving the company until Tuesday, or Wednesday at the latest, to remove copyrighted material from the search index.

When Napster users search through each other's music files they are actually looking at a file index stored on Napster's central servers. While copyrighted songs may continue to be stored on users' hard drives, the mechanism proposed by Napster will prevent those songs from showing up on its indexes, meaning other users won't be able to download them.

Speaking of its ability to block access to certain music files Napster said: "It's not easy; it is a complex technological solution that is very taxing to the system and will degrade the operation of the service. In addition, it will result in the exclusion of a great many files that are authorised as opposed to unauthorised. It has involved a significant investment of time and resources. However, we believe it is superior to shutting the service down and disbanding the community during the transition period to the new membership-based service."

On Friday, Boies told the court, "We've had a group of people at Napster working night and day for two weeks trying to find a process to block these names. Sometime this weekend we will have completed the software implementation."

For the purposes of this story, this reporter was able to download music by a variety of music acts, including outspoken Napster opponents Metallica and Dr Dre, without any problems as late as Monday morning (the songs were also immediately deleted once it was determined they were still available online.).

Judge Patel did not issue a new injunction from the bench Friday morning, but the move by Napster appears designed to help it prepare for any decision she may issue in the future. Patel gave no indication Friday when she will issue her revised ruling.

"We are hopeful that the court's injunction, when it is issued, will allow the Napster community to operate while we continue to seek an agreement with the recording industry and transition to a membership-based service," Napster said.

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