Napster's future looks uncertain today after it emerged the music sharing service has failed to implement filters designed to prevent music files being illegally downloaded in breach of copyright agreements.
At a hearing in a San Francisco US District Court last Friday, Napster attorney David Boies promised to roll out filtering software which will block out over a million copyright protected music files.
"We've had a group of people at Napster working day and night for two weeks trying to find a process to block these names," Boies told the court.
The firm's lawyers said the company hoped to reach agreement with the recording industry on how to identify such material. "What we are doing is inserting a step between the uploading and the viewing of the index that will block out specific filenames. This screen will start sometime this weekend," Boies said.
US District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel called Friday's hearing to gather information that will help her rewrite a ruling issued last July that effectively would have shut Napster down for assisting in the violation of music copyrights. Judge Patel, who considered arguments from Napster and the recording industry, did not issue a new injunction on Friday but made it clear that she would soon - at which point the service could close.
Napster has not been helped by reports in the US on Sunday that users had experienced no difficulty in swapping copyrighted songs despite the firm's filtering efforts.
"I've downloaded a bunch of things before it ends," Chavelle Wiseman, a 16-year-old user from Palo Alto, California, told the Associated Press. "It's everything I've wanted to download for a while."
With the service facing imminent shutdown, usage soared, with more than 11,100 people shared a total of 2.2 million files on Sunday evening through just one of Napster's dozens of servers.
Earlier, record industry executives said they were encouraged by Napster's filtering plan but said it did not go far enough. "What Napster said today was what we've known for years, that they can filter songs," said Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) chief executive, Hilary Rosen.
The RIAA's lawyers said that questions over how to identify copyright material should not be allowed to delay the injunction from taking effect.
Napster has already asked a higher court to review last month's appeals court ruling.
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