Napster Shutdown!

7-27-00 07:00 AM PST antiGUY
On Wednesday, a federal judge ordered the temporary shutdown of Napster pending a trial. 

U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel agreed with the RIAA's argument that the San Mateo Company's music-swapping service encouraged copyright infringement and granted the RIAA's request for a preliminary injunction. 

"When the infringing is of such a wholesale magnitude, the plaintiffs are entitled to enforce their copyrights," said Patel when issuing the order that instructed Napster to shutdown their music-swapping service by 12:00 midnight Friday, California time. 

To ease the financial blow to the San Mateo Company, Judge Patel requested that the RIAA post a $5 million bond to cover any possible losses for Napster while the company is shut down under the injunction awaiting a trial.

Napster is not letting go without a fight. Their lead attorney David Boies told reporters after the hearing that Napster will appeal the decision immediately. 

Napster will also host a live chat at 7pm PST on July 27th between users and CEO Hank Barry and founder Shawn Fanning to discuss the decision and Napster's plans to move forward. 

The core of the Napster defense is the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992. They contend that since their service is used to share music for noncommercial use, their users are not violating copyrights. During the hearing Boies enlisted the same defense that Sony used successfully to defend their Betamax VCR's in the early 80's by arguing that the use of the Napster software constituted "fair use". 

The Judge did not agree and found that when 22 million users are sharing music files it can not be classified as personal use. 

Cary Sherman a RIAA senior v.p. applauded the decision and said in a statement Wednesday, "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."

Although this decision may be the beginning of the end for Napster, it will not stop the trading of MP3's on the net. The shut down of Napter may prove a blessing for similar services like Gnutella and Freenet that use decentralized servers which makes it extremely difficult to track down users and the companies involved. 

The OpenNap website (opennap.sourceforge.net) which operates an open-source version of the Napster server also lists 14 alternatives to the Napster service and file-sharing protocol. It appears Pandora's box has been opened and while the RIAA may succeed in shutting one service down, there are many waiting in the wings to fill the void.