Web security company Copyright.net said it contacted Napster and various Internet service providers about the violations Monday, requesting that access to the files be blocked. Napster has terminated accounts of alleged copyright infringers in the past.
Although the alleged violations are not the first, they underscore the scale of the policing problem that the music file-swapping service faces if it hopes to live up to promises to keep its network free of copyrighted works.
"People have known that days of this kind of reckoning are coming," said Gartner analyst P.J. McNealy. "People know that the free world as they know it to be for music is going to end some day, and this is just one of those steps that's heading in that direction."
This week's notification of Orbison infringements comes as the Recording Industry Association of America steps up its enforcement actions.
Napster is scheduled to head to the courtroom Friday for the next phase of legal proceedings aimed at shutting it down. An appeals court decision earlier this month found that the company contributed to massive copyright violations through its service. Napster representatives could not immediately be reached for comment.
Copyright.net said it sent notices not only to Napster, but also to ISPs that can identify the e-mail addresses of subscribers and forward them notices about copyright violations. Although Copyright.net said it has identified more than 1 million instances of copyright infringements for songs in circulation on Napster, it was unclear how many individuals face banishment from the service.
If someone wanted to reinstate an account with Napster, that person would have to go to the Copyright.net Web site and agree to remove unauthorized files from their hard drive. The Napster member could then obtain a version of the music in a secure file format.
Copyright.net said that although it has had discussions with the major record labels, it is working with copyright owners who pay it for the service, such as Roy Orbison Music and Barbara Orbison Music.
Several companies offer services for tracking the unauthorized trading of copyrighted works on Napster and other file-swapping networks, including Sunhawk subsidiary Copy Control Services and NetPD.
Copyright holders are using the support of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to push ISPs to pull allegedly infringing content. By responding to such requests, ISPs can escape liability.
Although the DMCA applies only in the United States, copyright holders have been working with international organizations to accomplish the same result. In Europe, a group known as the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry has been tracking individuals suspected of trading music files illegally.
"We want to see digital rights distribution get off the ground," said Copyright.net CEO Tim Smith. "Right now, the whole process has been stalled because the black market has been created, and legitimate digital distribution is going nowhere."