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Napster, RIAA begin court battle

Oct. 5, 2000



A potentially precedent-setting case filed by the Recording Industry Association of America against Napster began Monday and may shut down the existence of the popular music-swapping site. The trial is expected to last as long as a month.

RIAA claims that Napster software should be liable for allowing millions of users to download music for free, therefore violating intellectual copyright rights.

Napster, a widely used California-based company started by a 19-year-old college dropout, said it will shut down if the court agrees with RIAA. In the suit, Napster faces powerful recording companies such as BMG, Sony Music and Time Warner.

Each minute, 14,000 recordings are downloaded, according to RIAA, and Napster claims that 28 million users have downloaded MP3 files from Napster.

A decision in July by Judge Marilyn Patel granted an injunction against Napster. The act was immediately overturned.

A similar injunction in the present case would shut down Napster permanently.

In fear of the site being shut down, millions of users visited Napster to download songs for what they thought would be the last time. Napster traffic increased 23 percent to an average daily visitor count of 945,000 in the week ending Sept. 24, according to Media Metrix, an Internet traffic measurement firm.

Tommy Roberson, network security administrator, said Baylor's initial decision to block Napster this semester dealt with the possibility of lawsuits based on copyright infringement. Yale University, Indiana University and the University of Southern California have all been subject to suits of this nature, but each case was dropped when the university agreed to block Napster.

Based on reports he has read, Roberson said Baylor is a part of the one-third of colleges across the nations that have decided to block Napster.

Napster attorneys claim that the 1984 U.S. Supreme Court decision that permitted use of the VCR protects Napster for recording copyright-protected material. It also cites the Audio Home Recording Act that allows people to tape music in their homes.

Hilary Rosen, president of RIAA, said RIAA will consider Napster's proposal to charge each user a $4.95 monthly fee, which would generate revenue for the major recording labels involved in the case.

The case against Napster is expected to reach the Supreme Court, according to CNN.