Music downloading from Napster has been suspended, at least temporarily, while the file-swapping site installs filters in order to comply with a court order prohibiting the unauthorized exchange of copyrighted music.
“File transfers have been temporarily suspended while Napster upgrades the databases that support our new file identification technology,” said a message posted on Napster’s home page.
Because all previous versions of Napster software were disabled as part of the effort to comply with the injunction, Napster users are also being told to upgrade to version 2.0 beta 10.3 for Windows or version 1.0 beta 2 for the Mac.
“It will take some time for our new filtering technology to accurately identify files; so initially, the number of files available will drop,” the Napster site said. “As more users upgrade to the new versions and more files are identified, more music will become available through Napster.”
The New Way
The new technology is being installed to comply with U.S. District Judge Marilyn Patel’s order requiring Napster to block copyrighted songs from being traded on its service. Judge Patel’s order was upheld by the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on June 22nd.
The latest version of Napster will use “digital fingerprint” technology, which compares the digital structure of the music to a database of music that the recording industry claims is copyrighted.
Although the filtering technology is necessary to keep Napster out of further litigation, it has caused the number of tunes available through the service to drop significantly.
Numbers released by Webnoize last week reveal that Napster users are now sharing an average of 1.5 songs a month, according to the report, compared to 220 songs during the month of February.
The number of users logging on to Napster is also falling. According to Webnoize, 320,000 users were logged on to the system June 27th, compared to an average of 1.57 million simultaneous users at Napster’s February peak in popularity.
“By further reducing the music available through the current service, Napster has provided another nail in the coffin of the service consumers originally loved,” Webnoize senior analyst Matt Bailey said. “With little music available now, users continue to drift away from Napster.”
Napster is struggling to stay alive until it can transform itself into a legitimate fee-charging service. The Redwood City, California-based company has promised the music companies that it will have its subscription-based service by September.
To that end, Napster has signed agreements with a number of record companies and independent labels. Last week, it signed a worldwide licensing agreement with the UK’s Association of Independent Music (AIM) and the Independent Music Companies Association (IMPALA).
The agreement authorizes Napster’s use of hundreds of thousands of tracks belonging to over 150 independent record labels in Europe. The organizations said the deal would help ensure the future of Napster’s file-sharing community.
In a separate deal announced in June, Napster will also be licensing technology and content from MusicNet, the subscription music service being launched by three major record labels and media provider RealNetworks.
Under the terms of that agreement, EMI, BMG Entertainment and Warner Music Group will allow their copyright-protected music to be delivered to Napster users — but only “at such time as Napster is operating in a legal, non-infringing manner, and has successfully deployed a technology that accurately tracks the identity of files on the service.”