Napster court case throttles file sharing

The number of Europeans regularly swapping files fell to just 4.6 million after Napster was taken to court, from a high of eight million in February

The number of people actively sharing files over the Internet using peer-to-peer systems has almost halved since Napster -- one of the most popular file-sharing services -- was taken to court.

According to market research firm Jupiter MMXI, the number of Europeans regularly swapping files on the Internet has fallen from more than eight million in February to just over 4.6 million in August, after Napster had been effectively taken offline. Napster still operates a greatly restricted service, having been ordered by a federal judge in July to remain offline until it could show that it was able to effectively block access to copyrighted works on its file-swapping network. It is still offline while it works on a proprietary encrypted and secured MP3 format called ".nap".

Napster has remained the most popular online music destination in Europe, according to the figures, and not one of the new services appears to have filled the void left by Napster. So-called legitimate music sites MP3.com and NetBroadcaster only attracted 1.5 percent and 1.7 percent respectively of the European online population in August. Peer-to-peer sites Musiccity Morpheus and Audiogalaxy attracted in turn 2.2 percent and 3.0 percent. But even in its reduced state, Napster attracted 4.7 percent of European surfers.

Mark Mulligan, Jupiter MMXI analyst and author of the report, said, "The strength of Napster is testament to the popularity of sharing music over the Internet, but also to the fact that consumers expect music to be free on the Web."

As well as the overall drop in people using peer-to-peer services, file sharing as a whole has become a fragmented market. In February of this year 12 peer-to-peer services shared a combined audience reach of 16 percent in Europe, compared to August 2001 when 17 sites share a diminished audience reach of 7.6 percent.

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