Napster has acted disgracefully, US District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel said yesterday before going on to threaten the MP3 sharing software company's network with closure.
At issue is Napster's attempt to follow Judge Patel's 5 March order that the sharing of songs nominated by the Recording Industry Association of America should be blocked. The RIAA claimed that Napster hadn't complied with the order, and brought the company before the court to demand Napster explain itself.
Napster's argument has been that it has tried to block the 135,000 songs named by RIAA on behalf of its members, and indeed had blocked 275,000 songs hidden behind 1.6 million filenames. It also said that some RIAA members had not provided enough information on filenames for it to carry out the court's order to the letter.
A fair point, considering Judge Patel's ruling said the music industry had to do what it could to help Napster - and that included supplying filenames as well as song titles.
Whatever the specifics of Judge Patel's advice to the recording companies, she clearly feels they have done all they need to and that the burden should fall upon Napster.
"You created this monster, you figure it out," she told the MP3 sharing company, clearly unimpressed by Napster's allegations of RIAA hindrance or by claims that it can't stop its users.
Judge Patel has been pretty anti-Napster all along - her first ruling on its copyright infringements was to shut the service down, an order soon rejected by the Appeal Court - but she didn't go as far as to rule Napster in contempt of court.
But the threat is there: "You find a way to filter out (those songs) for which you can search," said Patel. "Maybe the system needs to be closed down..."
No further orders were made to Napster, but there were plenty of hints given to it.
The outcome of the case seems to have been anticipated by Napster, which yesterday said it would buy music tracking software company Gigabeat.
Gigabeat's code essentially matches song titles with filenames, a capability that's central to any attempt by Napster to build a system that can track song sharing and calculate royalties accordingly. Napster has been working with Gigabeat for some time now, and rumours that it would acquire the company have been doing the rounds too.
Napster will pick up all Gigabeat's staff and technologies. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. ®