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Napster appeal: don't shut us down

A Friday deadline looming, Napster files an emergency appeal seeking to set aside a federal order that the company says puts its future at stake.
Written by Lisa M. Bowman, Contributor

Saying jobs and the company's future are at stake, Napster filed an emergency motion Thursday seeking to delay a federal order that could bring its song-swapping service to a grinding halt Friday at midnight Pacific Time.

In a motion filed with the US District Court of Appeals in San Francisco, Napster said that because of the order, "20 million subscribers will be unable to use Napster's services."

The appeal went on to say the company would be forced to lay off 40 employees "within a matter of days" and lose its customer base.

Napster said the injunction issued by US District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel, was impossible to obey without shutting down the service. The company said it would have to wade through millions of songs traded through its site each day to filter out the songs from major music labels, which Patel ordered blocked.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which sued Napster in December, argued in court Wednesday that about 90 percent of the songs downloaded by Napster users are copyrighted, a figure Patel agreed with when issuing her ruling.

Wednesday's ruling was a major victory for the RIAA, which represents the five major music labels: Warner Brothers music group, Sony Music, Seagram's Universal Music Group BMG, the music unit of Bertelsmann AG, and EMI Group plc.

Patel agreed with the RIAA's complaint that Napster is used primarily for downloading copyrighted material and said the industry had a strong likelihood of prevailing in a lawsuit set for trial later this year.

She also shot down Napster's argument that compliance was impossible saying, "they created a monster" and will have to figure out how to obey the ruling. Napster also asked for an expedited schedule when it comes to appealing the ruling, requesting that the judge set deadlines of 18 August for Napster's first brief, 8 September for an RIAA filing and 18 Sept for Napster's rebuttal.

Meanwhile, alternative free-music swap sites reported a huge influx of hits Thursday, as music lovers checked out their options in case Napster is shut down.

And RIAA protest sites popped up all over the Internet.

One site -- www.boycott-riaa.com -- asked people to boycott major label recordings during the month of August. "The bands and the music labels have forgotten they would still be selling shoes, frying burgers, or working for a living like the rest of us, if it wasn't for us, the music fan," the site said.

Screwmetallica.org, a site inspired by Metallica's separate copyright infringement suit against Napster, urged an indefinite ban and listed sites where people could find songs from more obscure bands.

Moreover, RIAA.com was down earlier Thursday. It was not immediately clear whether that was due to heavy traffic, hacking or another reason.

Napster.com was also slowed by an influx of users who were apparently trying to download as much music as they could before the injunction takes effect.

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