The lawsuit filed by US record industry representatives against MP3 file swapping software firm Napster was yesterday scheduled by a US federal appeals court for the week beginning 2 October.
The Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals said a three-strong panel of judges would hear the case in San Francisco. It is being billed as the internet's first great battle over intellectual property rights.
Last month, Napster narrowly escaped being shut down for the duration of the legal proceedings after it won a stay of execution on a ruling effectively closing it down made by District Judge Marilyn Patel.
The Recording Industry Association of America argued that Napster is encouraging piracy, but Napster maintained it is simply providing a service for users to share music regardless of whether it is copyrighted.
The announcement comes on the heels of advisory briefs filed by several US web and media groups under US 'Friend of the Court' rules.
The groups slammed Judge Patel's granting of an injunction requiring Napster to remove all copyrighted material from its website on the grounds it contributed to copyright violation. They argued that she misapplied copyright law that protects technologies with substantial non-infringing uses.
However, the groups were careful not to align themselves with any side in the Napster case, arguing that bigger issues were at stake.
One such issue is the development of the peer-to-peer file swapping software pioneered by Napster for use in other fields such as medical research. The US equivalent of the British Medical Association has said Judge Patel's decision threatened "the dissemination of important therapeutic medical information", according to reports.
Jeff Joseph, vice president of communications at the Computer Electronics Association (CEA), whose members include Sony, Compaq and Intel, said: "Our primary concern is something bigger than Napster. It's about the First Amendment in the digital age and the ability of content providers to shut down new technologies."
As well as the brief filed by the CEA, filings were also made by the Digital Media Association, which acts for companies involved in digital music distribution, and NetCoalition, which numbers Lycos, Yahoo and Amazon as members.
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