In papers filed in U.S. District Court, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is accusing music sharing service Napster of non-compliance with Judge Marilyn Hall Patel’s recent order to implement a filtering system. Judge Patel ordered Napster to employ a filtering system that would prevent users from downloading copyrighted songs from commercial artists. Calling Napster’s filtering system “archaic,” the RIAA suggested that the popular music sharing service implement a “filter-in” system instead.
RIAA: Filtering isn’t working
RIAA president Hilary Rosen issued a strong condemnation to Napster in a recent release. “Calling this type of filter effective is like calling an umbrella full of holes a hurricane shelter. It’s not working, it never will work and Napster should be ordered to implement an effective filter or to change its filtering method.”
The RIAA said that it’s way too easy for Napster users to work around the restrictions that are now in place for users to share copyrighted works that should be blocked. RIAA explained that Napster’s search engine is “clearly not blocking reasonable variations” in artist and title names. Shorten the title of the song, for example, and Napster’s search engine can find it.
The RIAA would like to see Napster utilize digital checksums — something that’s already part of Napster’s operating system, they say — to identify identical MP3 files, regardless of the name given by the user. By examining the actual digital contents of the audio file, RIAA said that Napster could weed out potential scofflaws. The RIAA also suggested that Napster could incorporate a “digital fingerprinting” scheme — a method by which MP3 files would be analyzed for unique digital characteristics.
Finally, Napster could incorporate a “filter-in” system, said the RIAA. Under this model, Napster would index and allow distribution of only those musical works for which it was authorized. “the ‘filter in’ model is, in fact, how every other distributor of music or any copyrighted work must operate their business,” said the RIAA.
Napster: ‘aggressively complying’ with court order
For his part, Napster CEO Hank Barry isn’t taking the RIAA’s accusations lying down. He said his company is “aggressively complying” with the court’s injunction, and has blocked access to more than a quarter million songs in the past three weeks. Barry said that Napster’s relationship with CDDB operator Gracenote is playing off, as well, with additional blockage of 10,000 artist names and 40,000 song title variants.
It’s had a measurable impact on Napster’s traffic, said Barry — Napster’s index has been reduced by more than half, and the average number of shared files per user has dropped by almost two thirds. Almost a third of Napster’s staff are working full-time on copyright compliance.
Barry scoffed at the RIAA’s calls to change Napster’s filtering technology. “It is an attempt to change the subject rather than cooperate with Napster as the injunction specifies,” said Barry. “Napster will work with any technology that fits within the parameters of the court’s order.”
Barry also said that the RIAA and record companies are partly to blame for problems preventing copyrighted songs from being properly blocked — a violation of Judge Patel’s injunction, according to Barry.
“Because of the recording industry’s continuing failure to comply with the requirements of the injunction and the massive volume of data they have sent where the artist and song title they provide actually conflicts with the file name, Napster has been forced to spend considerable resources attempting to identify valid notices,” said Barry. “The RIAA’s report fails to mention their complete lack of cooperation in supplying variations in artist names and song titles. While we have gone forward to block this multitude of files, it is important to note that not a single record company has provided us with one variant of any song name. This is contrary to both the Ninth Circuit’s decision and the District Court’s order.”