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Ushering in a new era for the Net’s most popular music service, Napster appeared to be making good on a promise to block more than a million music files, as songs by a select number of artists dropped off the network late Sunday night. Songs by bands such as Metallica, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Dr. Dre, which had been plentiful on Napster early Sunday evening, suddenly became hard to find beginning shortly after 10 p.m. PST. A search for the Metallica song “Fade to Black” at 10:40 p.m. turned up just four songs. A search for the Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus” brought in 17 songs. There was a remarkable drop off as well for Hendrix songs, such as “Purple Haze” and “Foxy Lady.” In what might presage a tense cat-and-mouse struggle, however, many of those songs found their way back on Napster’s network, as fans created minor variations in the songs’ file names. A Napster spokeswoman late Sunday confirmed that the Redwood City, Calif.-based startup had implemented a new filter designed to keep users from downloading unauthorized songs. Napster, which is trying to ward off a draconian court order that could come any day, unveiled the new system Friday at a hearing in federal court. Although Napster says it is blocking more than a million file names, the number of songs actually being blocked is believed to be much smaller. Napster won’t provide an estimate. The recording industry, which has launched a broad offensive against Napster, appeared to take a wait-and-see attitude. “We expect they will honor the representations they made to the court,” Hilary Rosen, president of the Recording Industry Association of America, said in a statement. Deployment of the filter marks the first time in Napster’s meteoric two-year history that the company has filtered specific songs. Last July, Napster said the only way it could comply with a federal judge’s order to block unauthorized music was to disable the service completely. Napster’s announcement of the screen on Friday came two-and-a-half weeks after a federal appeals court handed the service a crushing defeat. Sunday’s move is likely only the beginning of what will be a long and difficult process for keeping unauthorized music from being traded on the Napster system. File names that contained typos or unorthodox spellings of songs — “Fade 2 Black,” for example — still appeared on Napster, suggesting that it might be easy to evade the new security protections Napster is implementing. The filter also is vulnerable to “translator” services cropping up, in which file names for popular songs are altered. One such service, available at www.timwilson.org , urged visitors to scramble Metallica’s “Fade to Black” so that it reads “UNHU FM TKSLN by YVQAVRXDU.” Several searches for translated songs, however, failed to find songs on Napster. Songs by other popular performers appeared to remain as available as ever. Songs by top-selling acts Britney Spears and Eminem, as well as more independent bands such as the Replacements and Broadcast, appeared plentiful on the service. Napster spokeswoman Julie Gladders said the songs removed Sunday night were those that the recording industry had brought to Napster’s attention using specific names of files being traded on the service and included proof of copyright. Copyrighted songs that remained available through Napster were not filtered because copyright holders failed to provide specific identifying information, Gladders said. Napster first laid out the procedure at Friday’s two-and-a-half hour hearing. There, Boies argued that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling requires Napster to block songs only after copyright holders have discovered that the music is being illegally traded over Napster’s system. Russell Frackman, who represented the recording industry, criticized Napster’s position because it still required labels’ music to be pirated before the music could be filtered on Napster’s new filter. The recording industry would much rather submit a list of songs — the top 100 songs ranked by Billboard magazine, for instance — and leave it to Napster to see that the music never makes its way onto the service in the first place. The standoff underscores the legal ambiguity that remains nearly three years after a law called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was supposed to resolve the dispute over who was responsible for policing intellectual property rights in cyberspace. Friday’s hearing before U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel in San Francisco came in the wake of last month’s blistering decision from an appeals court that said Napster aids in the massive infringement of record labels’ copyrights. The decision dealt a serious blow to the startup, but the 9th Circuit said an earlier injunction by Patel ordering Napster to block unauthorized songs was “overbroad” and instructed the lower-court judge to reword the order. Last October, the Bertelsmann eCommerce Group entered into a historic pact with Napster, lending the startup $60 million to build a paid-subscription model that gave copyright holders a cut of the revenue. Two weeks ago, Napster tried to get major labels EMI, Sony, Warner and Universal to form a similar partnership by promising to pay $1 billion in royalties over five years and to begin in July to charge users between $3 and $10 per month. So far the labels have shown no public interest. Napster catalogs songs contained on a user’s hard drive so that fellow users can easily find specific songs. The service then establishes a connection between the two users that lets them swap songs over the Net. The service has contributed to the popularity of the MP3 format, which provides audio that is nearly on par with compact discs but at nearly a third of the file size, making it ideal for transmission over the Internet. In early 1999, Shawn Fanning, then an 18-year-old dropout of Boston’s Northeastern University, developed the Napster software so that he and his friends could trade music online. The new Napster will prevent specific file titles from appearing in its catalog of songs even when those files reside on a subscriber’s computer. A statement on Napster’s Web site said the metamorphosis will come at a cost. “It is a complex technological solution that is very taxing to the system and will degrade the operation of the service,” the statement said. “In addition, it will result in the exclusion of a great many files that are authorized as opposed to unauthorized.” Napster still faces the possibility that Patel will issue a ruling that says the new filter does not go far enough and orders Napster to take further steps in policing its system. The recording industry may also demand damages in the billions of dollars, a sum that could put the service out of business. It was unclear what effect translation services such as the one at www.timwilson.org might have on the battle over copyrights on Napster. “You deserve the right to privately trade music on the Internet,” a statement on the timwilson.org site declared. The statement went on to suggest that the Constitution’s protection of free speech guaranteed the right of the service to exist, a question that is by no means settled. Still, the speed at which translator services sprang up shows the back-and-forth effort that will be necessary to block pirated songs. Related Articles from The Industry Standard: Can Napster Change its Tune? Napster Will Remove Copyright-Protected Songs Napster’s Beat Goes On ? for the Moment Copyright � 2001 The Industry Standard

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