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Napster lifts some song-swapping limits

A new version of Napster's software allows customers to find many songs that recently disappeared from its file-swapping service.

Napster has released a new version of its software that allows customers to find many songs that recently disappeared from its file-swapping service.

Late Friday, the company posted software that can more accurately determine which songs it is supposed to be blocking. That will once again allow people to trade a huge number of songs by independent or other artists that were inadvertantly blocked by the filtering system during the past few weeks.

"Help has arrived," the company wrote in a message on its site late Friday. The new technology "allows Napster to continue complying with the court's injunction, while blocking only the files we've been told to remove."

Napster's song-swapping filters, installed at the insistence of the courts and the record industry after several court battles, had dramatically reduced the number of songs available. As a result, many Napster users have switched to other file-swapping services.

According to industry consulting firm Webnoize, the average number of files shared by a person on the Napster network fell from 220 in February to just 21 by the end of May. The company also estimated that just 360 million files were traded through the service in May, compared with 2.79 billion in February.

Napster hopes the new filters will reverse that slide as more music reappears on the service. It needs to keep as many people onboard as possible as it prepares to launch a subscription service later this summer.

The new "fingerprinting" filters were produced by an Alexandria, Va.-based company called Relatable.