A federal judge on Wednesday issued an order temporarily
shutting down Napster Inc.,
siding with recording industry arguments that the song-swapping
service was a haven for piracy and copyright infringement.
U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel said the evidence
indicated that Napster's estimated 20 million users turned to the
company to download copyrighted music.
"When the infringing is of such a wholesale magnitude, the
plaintiffs are entitled to enforce their copyrights," Patel
deciding to grant the preliminary injunction requested by the
Recording Industry Association of
Patel's order, which came after a two-hour hearing, instructed
Napster to cease its music downloading operations by midnight
Pacific time Friday.
"We are pleased with the Court's decision. This decision will
pave the way for the future of on-line music", said Cary Sherman,
RIAA senior executive vice president and general counsel. "This
once again establishes that the rules of the road are the same
on-line as they are off-line and sends a strong message to others
that they cannot build a business based on others' copyrighted
works without permission.
"This is an important win for artists, too, because whether they
distribute their music through big labels, small independent
labels, or on their own, the Court has made clear that they have
the right to protect their works. Whether they choose to do so is
up to them. But the choice is theirs to make.
"Now that Napster's management understands that they need the
authorization of copyright owners to engage in their business, we
hope that they will work with the record companies to devise
innovative ways to use their technology for legitimate purposes
RIAA, which represents companies such Seagram Co. Ltd.'s
Universal Music, Bertelsmann AG's BMG, Sony Corp.'s Sony Music and
Time Warner's Warner Music Group and EMI, contends that no court
has ever held that wholesale copying and distribution of
copyrighted works could be considered "fair use."
Napster's Chief Executive Officer, Hank Barry, demurred, in a
videotaped announcement on the Napster site:
"Today in Federal court the judge issued an order tha basically
would have the effect of shutting down the Napster services that
currently exist. We will be appealing the judge's ruling to the
court of appeals, and will ask the court of appeals tomorrow
morning to stay the judge's order during the appeal process. If we
do not get a stay, then we will have until midnight Friday to
comply with the judge's order.
"Although we strongly and firmly disagree with the judge's
decision, we respect and understand the basis for it and we intend
to comply. The judge's ruling, essentially, is this, that
one-to-one non-commercial file-sharing violates the law. We'll
fight this, in a variety of ways, to keep the Napster community
growing and strong."
Weighing in with cautious commentary on the ruling was Dan
Rodrigues, president of Scour, which offers services similar to
Napster and is also being sued
"We've followed the Napster case very closely," said Rodrigues.
"We're interested in its outcome, and will continue to absorb every
detail of this hearing as it might relate to the MPAA/RIAA suit
against Scour. Like everyone, we've just heard this decision and
need to reflect on Judge Patel's ruling before commenting further.
As we all agree, this is a very serious issue that requires further
analysis. Any comments about the impact of this ruling on Scour
right now would be premature and hasty. Scour will continue to
maintain an open dialogue with the public on this issue."
Simultaneously, a number of companies that offer licensing
services immediately jumped on the dump-Napster bandwagon, such as
"EverAd is in support of licensed music on the Internet," said
company spokesman Doug Milles. "Our music division, PlayJ supports
one of the key models by encrypting banner advertising into music
files. This model, along with subscription and direct sales protect
the copyrights and compensates the labels and artists. PlayJ
provides free downloadable music, which is a part of Internet
Piracy, an artist-driven coalition formed to give recording
artists a voice in determining how their music is distributed on
the Internet, agreed.
"We believe that a company should not be able to co-opt other
peoples' copyrights," said Artists Against Piracy director Noah
Stone upon learning of the court's decision. "As an industry, we
must find a way to give music fans what they want, which is fast
and easy music on the Internet. While Napster, the technology, is
very compelling, Napster the business, has shown no respect for the
artists who create the music everyone wants to hear, download,
trade and profit from.
Filling in the middle was upstart Apple Soup, a brewing Napster
spinoff backed by the movie industry.
"Today's ruling is not the death of peer-to-peer networks, but a
call to resolve how this runaway success will work with existing
copyright and intellectual property." said AppleSoup CEO, Bill
Bales. "AppleSoup is the next generation peer-to-peer network that
lets content owners safely distribute anything digital via the
Internet, while retaining control of their creative works. This
approach gives consumers the opportunity to access great content
currently not available on the Internet. As a strong believer in
the power of peer-to-peer and as an early pioneer in the Napster
effort, I wish them the best as they work toward a resolution on
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