RIAA blasts Napster for violating court order

The brief was filed today as part of the injunction handed down earlier in March by US District Court judge Marilyn Hall Patel and details the RIAA's view of Napster's compliance with her order.

The RIAA's brief said that Napster has intentionally shirked its obligations as laid down by the injunction. The brief attacked the filters Napster uses to block copyrighted material from its service, its efforts to block files and the claims made in the compliance brief that Napster filed last week.

Napster's interim chief executive officer Hank Barry late responded forcefully to the RIAA's brief in a written statement.

"Napster is aggressively complying with the injunction with significant measurable results," Barry's statement said. The RIAA's call for a change in the filtering technology Napster uses is "an attempt to change the subject rather than cooperate with Napster as the injunction specifies."

Napster was originally sued for copyright infringement in late 1999 by BMG Entertainment, Warner Bros. Music Group, EMI Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group, the five major labels represented by the RIAA.

According to its brief, the RIAA and its member record companies have undertaken a "gargantuan effort" -- 1800 man-hours by the record labels and an additional 600 hours by the RIAA -- to provide Napster with 8,001,913 filenames corresponding to 328,074 works to be blocked. However, of a list of 675,000 specific songs -- which were included whether or not they were found on the system -- was given to Napster with the demand they be blocked, and all are still available on the network, as are more than 70 per cent of the songs Napster claims to have blocked, said the RIAA.

The failure of the filters is due only in part to the technology that was chosen, the brief said. "It is doubtful that Napster's self-selected, technologically archaic filter could ever significantly limit access to plaintiff's music. Yet, Napster contemptuously refuses to employ an effective filter -- for fear that it might actually work."

In place of the filters Napster is using, the RIAA said that the company ought to base its exclusions of files on their checksums. A checksum is a unique, mathematically generated "fingerprint" contained in every MP3 that was created from the same CD with the same software. For example, if a user were to create an MP3 of Britney Spears' "Oops, I Did it Again," every copy based on that original file would contain the same checksum. Such a system would not add substantial burden to Napster, the RIAA contends, because the Napster software already relies on checksums and includes them in its database.

In addition to the technological failure of the filters, the RIAA said Napster has failed to block obvious filename variations, such as "Sweet Dreams Are Made of This," a variant of the Eurythmics' title "Sweet Dreams."

In his written statement Tuesday, Napster's Barry said, "In the three weeks since the court's injunction was issued, Napster has blocked access to over 275,000 unique songs and over 1.6 million unique filenames." Napster also has added more than 10,000 variations in artists' names and more than 40,000 variations in song titles, the statement said.

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Sam Costello

PC World
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