Napster and fans battle back

"I, for one, will not log off until the end. I want to make what I have available to those who want it until the end. Stay on line. Make your libraries available. Keep sharing," read one message at The Napster MP3 Club on Yahoo. The club claims 811 members; Yahoo alone offers 29 Napster clubs.

Meanwhile, Napster has won an emergency stay of the injunction against the firm, at least until the company is able to appeal the Court's decision.

Napster gave several reasons for its need to fight the court injunction, which would have shut down the company's Web site operations by midnight Pacific time Friday, according to a Napster statement.

Among its concerns, Napster claimed that the court failed to recognise evidence that the site might actually be promoting sales for the music industry. In addition, Napster suggested that Wednesday's proceedings ran too short -- not giving the firm enough time to present all of the applicable evidence. Chief U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel denied a request for an evidentiary hearing.

At the hearing Wednesday, Patel determined that Napster's site posed a very real and immediate threat to the interests of the plaintiffs in the case -- the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). RIAA filed suit against Napster claiming the music-sharing Web site was infringing on copyrights held by the music industry.

Also listed among Napster's complaints was the charge that its users don't engage in commercial use of MP3 files and therefore don't participate in direct copyright infringement -- one of the main points of contention for Patel. The last of the major objections made by Napster attorneys centered on their belief that the judge ignored a U.S. Supreme Court precedent that suggests that extensions of copyright laws to new technologies be made by the U.S. Congress.

A source close to the RIAA told the IDG News Service that the music industry body plans to make a motion against the Napster appeal in the coming days.

Some Napster users are advocating abuse of the RIAA's Web site, said Chad Boyda, who runs a site, called www.napigator.com, that helps users find available Napster servers around the country.

Boyda said he doesn't favour this approach but is a staunch supporter of freely available music. "There are 20 million angry Napster users now," he said.

Traffic at Napigator.com, which was launched in February, has spiked since the ruling, from an average of 75,000 unique visitors per day to 100,000 yesterday, Boyda said. He expects to see 200,000 visitors a day in coming days and has ordered more bandwidth from his Internet service provider to keep up, he said.

The RIAA's Web site appeared to be inaccessible to many users for several hours yesterday, but a spokesman for the trade association said it didn't see any nefarious activity causing the problems.

Instead, the spokesman added, the site was swamped by an "exponentially larger" number of users than the RIAA typically gets. The site got 1.8 million to 2 million hits on Thursday last week, causing unexpected access problems, he said.

"People, whether or not they were friends or foes, wanted to know what our response was" to the Napster legal developments, the spokesman noted. Rather than add servers to provide increased capacity, the RIAA decreased its number of concurrent connections so that users who did get through were able to navigate the site, he said.

Meanwhile, other users are urging a boycott of RIAA recordings for the month of August.

Napster's site is still open for business, with the program that started the MP3 file-sharing craze still available as a free download. Messages from the site's founder, Shawn Fanning and CEO Hank Barry maintain their line. "The Judge's ruling is essentially this: that one-to-one non-commercial file sharing violates the law", says a message on the site from CEO Barry, who goes on to say that."We will fight this ruling in a variety of ways to keep the Napster community growing and strong. We will keep you informed and we will ask for your help. Please check our web site and our application for updates and what you can do".

The site also encourages members to contact record companies and "Tell them you are their best customers - loyal and active music fans -- and that you don't want them to kill Napster", publishing contact emails for all companies. Members are also being encouraged to buy the music of artists who have supported Napster before and after the court case, and are told to "Be sure to let the record store know you came from Napster".

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