EMusic wants Napster users banished

Beleaguered MP3 site demands that Napster take action against 600 wayward users for starters, with blockade requests against thousands more coming

Embattled MP3 site EMusic.com has asked Napster to block access to 600 of its users who have supposedly been trading EMusic tunes illegally through the controversial file-swapping application.

So far, Napster has not responded to the first of dozens of access-blocking requests promised by EMusic, which claims that more than 35,000 of its tunes are being illegally traded -- by approximately 20,000 users -- through Napster.

EMusic.com chief executive Gene Hoffman called the request to block accounts "unfortunate" but necessary, because he claims Napster has refused to do anything proactive.

"What I think we're saying is that Napster is making your life miserable," Hoffman said. "Napster could easily make this completely unobtrusive... with some Computer Science 101."

A Napster spokeswoman said the company gets requests to block access all the time. She had no further comment. Napster has said in court -- where it is being sued by five of the major recording companies -- that it can disable users, but cannot exclude particular songs or artists from its database.

The list of names from EMusic has been generated since last week, when the company announced it had "flipped the switch" on a way to track where its copyrighted songs were being traded.

The program -- running at only 10 percent capacity -- has so far identified 35,000 offending files. Each person discovered to have an EMusic file received an instant message warning to eradicate the file from his or her drive.

The company checked back with those same users 24 hours later. About a third of those getting the warnings complied, Hoffman said.

But nearly two thirds didn't erase the songs from their hard drives. The 600 names sent to Napster this week are the first instalment of that set of approximately 20,000 users that EMusic will ask to have banned.

"Some people were unhappy and had the usual vulgarities," Hoffman said. "But at [the] same time, just as many people said 'Hey, thanks, we'll take care of it.' A lot of this is customer education." Napster has complied with such requests in the past, and some say the site is bound by federal laws to do so. It recently banned about 317,000 users who illegally copied Metallica songs, although it later allowed back about 29,000 who swore they never did so.

Napster has also banned 230,000 users found with music from hip hop artist Dr Dre.

Both Metallica and Dr Dre are suing Napster.

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