Napster Caves in Latest Legal Round
The RIAA celebrated the ruling. The Association has pursued Napster through the legal system for its ability to enable the widespread sharing of copyrighted recordings. Napster is also under fire from rapper Dr. Dre and rock group Metallica, both of whom are represented by attorney Howard King. The week before Judge Patel's ruling, Metallica had presented the service with the screen names of 335,000 Napster users said to be pirating Metallica's music.
In response, Napster announced May 10 that it had removed 317,377 users accused of violating copyrights. The move may be purely cosmetic, however, as Judge Patel noted that the service does not require users to submit their real names, nor does Napster keep track of IP addresses belonging to dismissed members. IP addresses are the identification numbers of every computer on the Internet. It is extremely easy for repeat offenders to sign up as new accounts with Napster, Patel noted.
Napster's next move will be to pursue the argument that it is "an Internet search engine"—another information service protected by federal law. Napster is also claiming that it has many completely legal purposes other than the sharing of pirated music.
In a separate but related case, the music industry has proposed that San Diego–based MP3.com pay damages of roughly $100 million for past copyright infringements, which is approximately a third of the Internet music site's net assets. MP3.com was found in violation of copyright law last month in a suit brought by the "Big Five" of the music industry: Seagram Co.'s Universal Music Group, Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Music Group, Bertelsmann AG's BMG Entertainment, EMI Group PLC's EMI Recorded Music, and Sony Corp.'s Sony Music Entertainment. Inside sources say that once the punishment has been meted out, the record companies are interested in negotiating licensing terms for the future use of audio file–sharing protocol MyMP3.