Napster, the music sharing website, has asked fans to help it defeat a court verdict that could see it shut down later today.
The MP3 sharing system has filed an appeal against District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel's Wednesday-night ruling in favour of the US music industry. Judge Patel issued Napster an injunction ordering it to stop the trading of copyright material by midnight Pacific time Friday.
But away from the courtroom, Napster chief executive Hank Barry has urged users of the service - of which there are an estimated 20 million - to help keep the system alive. Barry has published a list of record company executives' email addresses on the Napster site and has urged fans to write to them. He has also called on fans to buy records this weekend from artists that support Napster.
If Napster's appeal fails, the service will be effectively shut down tonight - Barry has confirmed that he will comply with the order. In the meantime, a notice on the Napster website urges users to "keep using Napster between now and then".
Barry is preparing for a lengthy battle and promised users that "we will fight this ruling in a variety of ways to keep the Napster community growing and strong. We intend to see this through in every venue, in every court. We believe in Napster and we believe in the Napster community. Thank you for your support."
Napster continues to cause controversy and has posted the email addresses of major label executives at BMG, EMI, Sony, Time Warner and Universal Music Group. It has also provided contacts for the Music Publishers' Association and the Recording Industry Association of America, the body that brought the legal action.
"Write [to] the heads of the major record companies and tell them you are their best customers - loyal and active music fans - and that you don't want them to kill Napster," reads the message to users on Napster's site.
Napster is also promoting what it calls a "buy-cott" this weekend. "Support the artists who support Napster by going out and buying their CDs," adds the notice.
The verdict against Napster has prompted anger among users. One of the many users that have contacted vnunet.com said: "Withdrawing Napster is an outrage - it just gives the music industry more leave to rip us poor music fans off."
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