Judge Presses Napster’s Pause Button
Late Wednesday, 26-Jul-00, Judge Marylin Hall Patel issued a preliminary injunction barring the popular and controversial online music service Napster from distributing copyrighted music. Napster is being sued by the Recording Industry Association of America and A&M Records, which claim the company promotes piracy and copyright infringement and that the Web site has cost the recording industry over $300 million in lost sales. Napster claims it enables legitimate swapping of recorded music by acting as a clearinghouse of links to machines where MP3-encoded songs can be downloaded. Nonetheless, Judge Patel wasn’t impressed, and barred Napster "from causing, assisting, facilitating, copying, or otherwise distributing all copyrighted songs or musical compositions," effective 29-Jul-00. Napster of course plans to appeal, and will attempt to obtain a stay of this preliminary injunction from an appeals court before it goes into effect. Napster’s service has been the subject of considerable media attention, including lawsuits from high-profile recording artists and testimony before the U.S. Congress. Nonetheless, Napster is widely seen as being targeted by the recording industry because it’s one of the most visible (and easily sued) facilitator of online music swapping, while other similar services such as Gnutella and The Free Network Project are more nebulous and difficult or impossible to trace.