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"The goal is to shut us down, and the mechanism to do that is to say we can’t effectively screen in accordance with the injunction. I believe we can and are, and we’re going to do a better job of it in the future."
——Hank Barry

NAPSTER: WHAT'S BEHIND THE SCREEN? — UPDATE

RIAA Sends List Of More Songs; Napster To Use CDDB Technology To Remove Infringing Tracks
The Filter Wars continue.

The music companies, through the RIAA, plan in the next couple of days to send Napster the names of more songs that should be removed from the swapper's service.

The new block of songs will come just days after Napster was sent a list of 135,000 tunes that were marked for removal from the site, sources said.

While the 135,000-strong song list made headlines everywhere, sources said that the move was only an initial effort, and further lists will follow as Napster has infringed upon the copyrights of many other songs.

The RIAA said Friday (3/9) it had sent the online file-sharing service the 135,000-song list, a response to court-ordered terms that mandated the labels provide Napster with the names of copyrighted songs that appear illegally on its service.

An RIAA spokeswoman said the industry organization had submitted a list arranged by artist name, song title and album; it included alternative file names that could identify each song on the swappery's database, .

These moves were made in response to a March 5 injunction order requiring Napster to stop the unauthorized free trading of copyright-protected music on its service (hitsdailydouble.com, 3/6)—but placing the burden of documenting said music on rights-holders.

To deal with the removal challenge, Napster has pacted with Gracenote (formerly CDDB), it was announced on Tuesday (3/13). The latter company's database contains millions of song titles, including variants of songs' file names based on users' alternate spellings--which could help in the detection of disguised titles that appear on the service (hitsdailydouble.com, 3/5).

That multiplicity of file names has been a major problem for Napster as it tries to keep infringing files out of its computer system.

"This is a great moment for digital music," was the typically humble pronouncement from Gracenote Prexy David Hyman, who promised to help find "a solution where everyone wins."

Napster reportedly filed a "compliance report" Monday (3/12) to document its cooperation with the injunction order, under which the netco is required to bar the transfer of songs specified by plaintiffs within three days of notification.

Having acknowledged receipt of the list, Napster ostensibly must do what it can to prevent the listed tracks from being swapped by Wednesday (3/14) to adhere to the court's order. Plaintiffs, if unsatisfied by Napster's filtering efforts, may lodge a complaint with the court.

But Napster chief Hank Barry dismissed a Wednesday deadline as a "red herring" during a conference call Monday, adding that the filtering of infringing material was a "work in progress."

He claimed that nearly half of the approximately 95,000 artist/title pairs submitted by Sony in the recent batch lacked file names and were therefore not in compliance with the injunction.

Napster and recording industry representatives met Friday (3/9) in San Francisco in an effort to try to work out the potentially billions of dollars in damages that Napster could owe the labels for copyright infringements, sources said.

The netco's CEO declined to discuss the state of talks with the industry. "We remain hopeful," he said. Even so, he insisted, "The goal is to shut us down, and the mechanism to do that is to say we can't effectively screen in accordance with the injunction. I believe we can and are, and we're going to do a better job of it in the future."

Barry flatly declared that he didn't believe Napster would be liable for damages as long as it complied with all violations about which it was properly notified. Several industry observers wondered what planet he was on.

Barry also insisted that users want to comply and have even volunteered to remove enjoined files from their share folders on the service. Said one Napster user, "is-thay is-ay otally-tay ue-tray."

In a Web posting to its more than 60 million users, Napster said it had received some notices and expects the record companies to send more. "You will still be able to share music that we haven't been asked to block," the statement read. "The Napster file-sharing service is and will continue to be up and running."

The mediation session that took place last week was also ordered by the court, which hopes settlement terms in the highly publicized case could be worked out.

Industry insiders do not expect these meetings to yield an agreement, however, as damages are expected to be huge and the labels have their own online-distribution plans in place. Nonetheless, many believe a deal between the adversaries may eventually come to fruition, since the music industry has gained significant leverage following the revised injunction.

While Napster's enormous user base and brand dominance represent real value to the industry, the swappery needs a deal far more than do the majors, who continue to draft an array of agreements for alternative digital delivery.

In other news, both NARAS and struggling dot-com EMusic have filed new litigation against Napster. The Recording Academy's action demands the removal of tracks recorded from the Grammy telecast, while EMusic simultaneously insists on protection of its content and the reinstatement of its subscribers who traded its music on Napster. Uh…OK.

Meanwhile, indie label TVT Records has announced a promotional partnership with the swapco. The first campaign will offer tracks from Doggy's Angels, Nothingface and the "Snatch" soundtrack for sharing via Napster's client software, and the home page will in turn link to the TVT website, where visitors can enter a contest and find out more about the artists. TVT head Steve Gottlieb phoned from a cab to say Napster was "buzzing on the street."

Marc Pollack and Simon Glickman

REPUBLIC UPS GOLDSTEIN, ROPPO TO CO-PRESIDENTS
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