Napster halts file sharing during upgrade

Napster's controversial file sharing network remained offline as of 1 a.m. PT Tuesday, after a glitch took the service offline early Monday when new song-filtering software was being installed.

Users have been able to access Napster's chat and search functions but file transfers have been taken offline since the problems hit the service. Users logging on to the service were met with a message that read: "File transfers have been temporarily suspended while Napster upgrades its databases that support our new file identification technology. Keep checking this space for updates."

Napster has disabled all previous versions of its song-swapping software as part of an effort to comply with a US court order that requires it to prevent copyright material from being traded over its service. As a result, users have been forced to download the latest version of its software, Napster 10.3, in order to continue trading songs. The new version includes new filtering and fingerprinting technology designed to help eliminate the trading of copyright music.

Monday's glitch is related to the installation of the new identification software, but company representatives said the outage occurred during the installation process and was not caused by a flaw in the technology.

Napster officials would not speculate on how long it would be before users could resume their song swapping. "We're working to bring it back up as soon as possible," a spokesman said on Monday. "We're not speculating on a time frame. "Since Napster began imposing new restrictions earlier this year, the number of songs traded over its servers has dropped significantly, according to digital music research firm Webnoize. The research firm reported last week that users had an average of only 1.5 songs available to trade on their PC, down from an average of 220 in February.

Napster has announced plans to launch a new, fee-based version of its service in the next few months. Despite Monday's problems, the company said Monday it remains "on track" to launch the new subscription service in the third quarter.

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