"While Napster has been on the decline, users have been flocking to the new alternatives."
——Jupiter Media Metrix VP Charles Buchwalter


With Trial Entering Its 473rd Year, New Research Shows Consumers Still Swapping Like Crazy
Because the fat lady absolutely refuses to sing, here’s the latest on the Napster trial.

The record industry is schlepping its briefs to federal court in San Francisco today to request a summary judgment against Napster in its long-running—and critically acclaimed—copyright infringement lawsuit against the renegade swappery.

"We will argue in front of Judge (Marilyn Hall) Patel on Wednesday, seeking a summary judgment against Napster on the issue of liability, which would in essence leave for trial only the amount of damages and the nature of the injunction," said record industry barrister Russell "The Muscle" Frackman.

In a move that could never be called shocking, Napster lawyers will oppose the request and argue for a full trial to determine its liability. Hooray for a full trial! Hooray for prolonged coverage of Napster litigation! Hooray! The company faces potentially billions of dollars in damages due to the lawsuit.

The big five labels first sued Napster in December 1999. Napster has been idle since this July as a result of Judge Patel’s preliminary injunction against the company.

Sources close to Napster, which is trying to transform itself into a secure, membership-charging service, said they do not believe a summary judgment is appropriate. They want the case to be taken to trial because there are so many factual issues that need to be addressed. And also because music fans are never sated with stories about Napster in court.

In other good news for both the once wildly popular file-swapping site and the litigation-minded labels, Jupiter Media Metrix today reported that the number of users of file-swapping applications other than Napster grew 492%, with unique users in the U.S. increasing from 1.2 million in March 2001 to 6.9 million in August 2001. Meanwhile, unique users of the Napster application, which still can be used for organizing and playing music files, decreased 49% over the same period. Napster had 10.8 million unique users in March 2001 and 5.5 million in August 2001.

Four file-sharing alternatives, all of which entered the Media Metrix ratings reports in June 2001, have quickly been gaining ground: Morpheus with 2.3 million unique users in August 2001 (up 186% from June 2001), Kazaa Media Desktop (1.3 million users, up 157%), Winmx (1.2 million users, up 91%), and Aimster (927,000 users, up 74%).

"The Media Metrix ratings indicate that a strong fan base still exists for file-swapping services," said Jupiter Media Metrix VP, Media Research Charles Buchwalter. "While Napster has been on the decline, users have been flocking to the new alternatives."