After a year of legal fits and starts--and repeated attempts to clean up some copyright violations on its own--Napster's antipiracy efforts are finally official.
At the end of the day Monday, the company sent a federal court
documentation outlining how it is officially complying with a
preliminary injunction issued early last week, which requires the company
to block numerous copyrighted works from being traded through its service.
Although the company has had its screens up for a week--and has
been fine-tuning them as people
find ways to slip their songs through the mesh--this is the first time
Napster has officially had to show that its internal efforts are in line
with the court's order.
"I think Napster is complying with the injunction both in the letter and in
the spirit," said Napster Chief Executive Hank Barry.
It's clear, however, that the injunction is a work in progress on both
sides, with Napster and the record companies struggling to force their own
technologies and databases into the terms laid out by the court.
Barry conceded that variants of blocked songs are still slipping through,
noting that the company has people manually entering common misspellings of
file names into the screens' databases. But the record companies, too, are
apparently having some difficulty complying with the exact terms of the
Of 135,000 song titles submitted to Napster by the record industry last
Friday, more than a third did not include the file name that U.S. District
Judge Marilyn Hall Patel said was necessary to trigger a block.
All of these 46,000 songs came from Sony Music Group, Barry said.
Record industry representatives could not immediately be reached for
comment. The two-thirds of the songs that did comply with all the terms of
the injunction will be blocked by Wednesday night, Barry said.
Up to this point, outside observers have said that Napster's filters have
had almost no effect on the service's traffic.
Research company Webnoize, which monitors traffic flowing through Napster's
service, said that traffic last week actually jumped from the week before
by more than 3 percent, with an average of 1.66 million people on the
system at any given time.
The filters "don't seem to have deterred anyone from using Napster," said
Webnoize analyst Matt Bailey. He added, however, that he expects use to
drop off sharply when the second version of the filters containing the
record industry's long list of songs actually goes into place.
Meanwhile, Napster appeared to be gaining ground on the simplest attempts
to evade filters.
Common misspellings, which had made it easy to find even blocked songs last
week, had for the most part disappeared by Monday. Pig Latin versions of
song titles, artists and file names, a filter-evasion measure propagated by rival company Aimster and several other sites
independently, had also been blocked in many cases.
Napster has contacted some of the people spreading these anti-filter
technologies and asked them to stop. Aimster confirmed late Monday that it
was taking its Pig Latin system down at Napster's request and had stopped
development of a more powerful program for evading the filters that had
been dubbed "Scorpion."
Barry said Napster is also developing a software program that will search
out variants of song names that are slipping through the filters; it has
contacted outside companies including Gracenote and NetPD for help. NetPD
is the same company that originally helped Metallica and Dr. Dre find
infringing files on Napster's system last summer.