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The number of songs being traded through Napster Inc. has dropped sharply since the company began policing its system for unauthorized songs, a research firm reported Thursday. Napster users were downloading 50 percent fewer files as the company beefed up its screening technology Wednesday, according to Webnoize, a firm that has followed Napster usage closely. Before upgrading its system to block access to infringing content, the average number of files shared per Napster user was 172. After the upgrade, the average number dropped to 71, Webnoize reported. Napster officials continue to disagree with the recording industry about the burdens the company must bear in policing its system for unauthorized content. Napster told U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel in a document filed Monday that “critical disputes” have arisen with the recording industry. The Redwood City, Calif.-based company says the record labels are wrong in thinking the March 5 federal court injunction meant Napster must search for infringing content even prior to proper notification from copyright holders. Napster says it is unable to block some of the songs because the recording industry has failed to supply specific enough information. But the industry claims Napster’s niggling over particulars is an attempt to buy more time. Napster says the industry is failing to share the workload and provide required information. It claims it has spent $150,000 and more than 2,700 employee hours to develop and implement a screening technology to block access to unauthorized content. On Tuesday, the company announced it had signed a deal with Gracenote, a Berkeley, Calif.-based company that maintains a database of more than 12 million musical works cataloged by artist and title, including spelling variations that may have slipped through Napster’s system in the past. After the screening technology began to make a dent in online trading, other services popped up on the Internet with solutions to the barrier. These included several online pig Latin translators that turned Britney Spears, for example, into “Itneybray Earsspay.” At the request of Napster, file-sharing firm Aimster has now removed its pig Latin program from its Web site. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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