British music industry officials today welcomed the decision by a US judge to pull the plug on the Napster music swapping system, saying it would help their fight against online music piracy in the UK.
Last night, US San Francisco District Court Judge Marilyn Patel granted an injunction filed by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), suspending Napster from allowing users to swap copyrighted material from midnight Friday (Pacific Time). Click here for details of the verdict.
Napster says that it does not have the capability to filter copyrighted material from that in the public domain and that the decision effectively shuts it down.
The news has been hailed as a precedent in the fight against piracy by lawyers at the British Phonographic Institute (BPI), the UK's equivalent of the RIAA.
Andrew Yeates, director of legal affairs at the BPI, told vnunet.com.: "This decision has value as a precedent if we were to look at cases of how this kind of technology is used in the UK.
"We welcome this decision. We also welcome technological advances, but there has to be a balance between these advances and the rewards they generate for artists. Technology like Napster has to be used in a way that is acceptable; this debate is not about the technology itself but in the way it is used."
Yeates confirmed that the BPI is exploring technology that would allow music to be bought and downloaded online without being easily copied.
Meanwhile, UK users of the Napster service said the decision will drive users to more underground services, such as the Gnutella open source file sharing system.
Stefan Williams, a London-based web designer and dance music producer, said: "Closing it [Napster] down is stupid. It just makes the MP3 scene go back underground. It is not difficult to see that this is not going to change anything.
"The record industry should embrace technology such as Napster and monitor it, rather than push it underground. The future of music is that artists will get paid by the advertising on places like Napster, receiving a fee for every download. Everyone is talking about media on demand, and that is what Napster and the like are."
Napster's legal timeline:
8 Dec 1999 ... The RIAA files lawsuit in San Francisco federal court against San Mateo-based Napster, saying its online music downloading service violates copyright infringement laws.
April 2000 ... Facing lawsuits, US colleges Indiana University and Yale University agree to block out Napster from their servers.
27 April ... Rapper Dr Dre joins a lawsuit filed by rock band Metallica against Napster.
3 May ... Metallica names more than 300,000 Napster users who the band says violate its copyrights. Later, Napster says it would block those users from participating in its service.
9 May ... US District Court Judge Marilyn Patel in San Francisco rejects Napster's claims that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 protects it from the illegal actions of its users.
12 June ... The recording industry asks for a preliminary injunction to shut down Napster.
15 June ... Napster hires David Boies, the US government's star attorney in the Microsoft antitrust case, to lead its defence against sundry copyright infringement lawsuits.
3 July ... Napster files its response to the recording industry's lawsuit, saying US federal laws gives its users the right to swap copyrighted songs on the internet.
11 July... US Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on online music, with Napster holding centre stage.
14 July ... The RIAA rejects Napster's rebuts position in a court filing.
26 July ... Judge Patel grants a temporary injunction to the recording industry, suspending much of the service from midnight Friday (Pacific Time). Napster says this effectively shuts it down.
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