Napster has to block every single copyright song it does not have permission to be allowed to be shared over its network, the music sharing company was ordered this week.
And it has to stay offline until it can show the US District Court that it can enforce the ban perfectly.
So ruled Judge Marilyn Hall Patel on Wednesday. Napster, for its part, is preparing to appeal the judgment. In court, it said a 100 per cent successful blocking system was impossible. The company claims its current approach is 99.4 per cent effective, and it may yet improve that figure, but not to the degree that Judge Patel requires.
The music biz is, of course, happy with the ruling, but it's stretching the point somewhat. While the Recording Industry Ass. of America warned of dire consequences for the artist whose track was the one single song to slip through Napster's net, that's as nothing to the revenue lost by folk making tapes or CD-RWs from borrowed discs.
But of course the RIAA can't do anything about that, at least not yet.
Napster's sharing service has been down anyway, so the ruling won't have any immediate effect. In fact, it provides Napster with a scapegoat for the continuation of its downtime. With the service down, the company can focus on implementing its fingerprinting technology - the reason for the current outage - and get the music industry off its back while it does so.
It also provides an opportunity to gracefully retire its free service without appearing to be the bad guy - blame the court, it can say, while launching its subscription-based service that may not be 100 per cent perfect at protecting copyright but sufficient to appease music companies now making some money out of it. ®