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FAQ: How today's order affects Napster fans

CNET News.com takes a look at some of the most important questions for fans and foes following historic court ruling against the music-swapping service.

Today's court ruling against popular music-swapping service Napster handed the recording industry its first major victory against online piracy and touched off a flurry of angry postings by fans on the Internet.

CNET News.com takes a look at some of the most important questions for Napster fans and foes following the historic decision.

Are Napster users liable for copyright infringement as a result of this injunction, or are they required to delete any MP3 files they downloaded with Napster?
No. Today's decision is directed only at Napster. The record industry would have to file separate lawsuits against individuals, which is highly unlikely.

Will Napster shut down as a result of the ruling?
Possibly. Napster is required to stop facilitating the trading of copyrighted material owned by the plaintiffs, which includes the major record companies. Napster representatives said the ruling could force them to shut down completely because they cannot filter out copyrighted material. However, they plan to seek a stay of the injunction that would allow them to keep operating.

When does the ruling take effect?
Midnight, Friday, July 28.

How long will the ruling stay in effect?
The injunction is temporary. It will last until the case is resolved Napster wildfire through a settlement or trial, or until it is lifted by a court of appeal.

What led to today's injunction?
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) filed suit against Napster last December, charging it with "contributory and vicarious copyright infringement." As part of the suit, the RIAA sought an injunction that would force Napster to halt the swapping of copyrighted material pending a full trial. A federal judge today granted that request.

The RIAA represents the major U.S. Court: Shut down Napster record companies, including the "Big Five" labels--Warner Music Group, Sony Music Group, Universal Music Group, BMG Entertainment and EMI Recorded Music.

Are other services such as CuteMX, Scour.net, Gnutella and Freeserve affected?
Not directly. Services such as Scour.net that use a central server to link people to MP3 files could be affected, particularly if today's order leads to a legal precedent. Peer-to-peer services such as Gnutella, where people connect directly with each other's computers, are not likely to suffer.

What happens next?
Napster's lawyers said the company plans to fight the injunction. Any challenge would be considered by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A full trial is scheduled for later this year.