Napster has finally admitted that its filtering system isn't working, and has suspended file sharing until it can fix the problem.
Although traffic has reduced with each new filtering system adopted by Napster - by 90 per cent in all - critics have alleged that its users were still exchanging copyrighted material, which has been forbidden by a court injunction.
Napster moved last month to acoustic recognition filtering technology but claims that, while it works just fine, the firm has run into problems with the database software used to support it.
The company said that file swapping was suspended because "there were problems with the databases upon which the new file identification technology relies, and those problems were decreasing the effectiveness of the technology".
Napster could not say when the database problems would be fixed, but insisted that they would not delay the planned launch of its paid-for subscription service.
Although attacked by its opponents, and criticised by a US judge for its "disgraceful" previous efforts at filtering, Napster has always been resolute about staying open for business.
However, the firm now has a court-appointed technical expert looking over its shoulders to ensure that it keeps to a timetable to meet the injunction's requirements.
Commentators have suggested that Napster might have been shut down had it not suspended the file sharing service - something it could ill-afford in the run up to the launch of its paid-for subscription service.
Asked whether the suspension had been made for legal reasons the firm replied only that "the decision was made on the basis of what we believe makes the most sense for the company at this time".
Analysts said this was the first time Napster had admitted that filtering was difficult, and that the suspension was good news for other free music services and file sharing systems.
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