Napster? Never heard of it mate

While Napster sails the popularity wave through the US, us Brits seem to have missed the boat

The controversial music format MP3 may be one of the top search items on the Net, but it seems us Brits are still light years away from adopting the format with the same relish as our US cousins.

While American universities and colleges are scrambling to deal with the advent of MP3, and more recently with its (alleged) partner-in-crime Napster, the UK seems barely aware of the digital music revolution that's causing many a sleepless night for music execs. Napster is an MP3 file-sharing application that's been striking fear into the music industry since its arrival last year.

So threatening is this creation of 19-year-old Shawn Fanning, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is suing him and his company in what is sure to be an interesting court battle. Meanwhile, American educational facilities are banning students from using Napster and its clones on their networks. The software has exploded in popularity across US colleges, leading to bandwidth headaches for systems administrators as users shunt massive numbers of MP3 files using college bandwidth. Indiana University found that Napster users were consuming two-thirds percent of its network bandwidth. Ask a college network administrator in the UK, though, and you'll be lucky if they've even heard of MP3.

ZDNet contacted the IT departments of over 20 of the UK's biggest universities and found that none of the IT staff responsible for network and system management had ever come across Napster. Certainly, there were no reports of the application causing bandwidth problems here. Ian Valkeith, network manager at West Herts' College, said he had "Never heard of it" -- a reaction mirrored across the UK's academic institutions.

Currently, over 70 US universities have blocked access to Napster, leading to student protests and yet further infamy for the little application.

But while the UK wakes up to the promise of free music courtesy of Napster, other clones are beginning to appear.

To follow: What can the music industry do?

Take me to the MP3 special.

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