Judge Warns Napster

Patel appoints expert to investigate filtering process

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During a Tuesday hearing, U.S. District Judge Marilyn Patel expressed disgust at Napster's recent efforts to filter copyrighted material out of its online database and again threatened to shut the music file-swapping site down.

Though she didn't set a new hearing date, Patel appointed Dr. A.J. "Nick" Nichols -- a senior member of the Professional and Technical Consultants Association and a hardware and software expert -- as a new technical expert to investigate and oversee the possibility of implementing new filtering methods that might help the site.

The hearing came just after Napster's announcement that it had acquired Gigabeat, Inc., a company that has developed music search- and song-file-identification technologies that might help Napster in becoming compliant with copyright law.

But the deal did little to hide Patel and the RIAA's irritation about the quantity of copyrighted material that remained on the site. Patel described Napster's efforts as "disgraceful."

"Today's hearing reflects Judge Patel's determination to ensure that the Court's injunction is obeyed and that Napster's infringing conduct comes to an end," said RIAA Senior Vice President and General Counsel Cary Sherman. "From our perspective, what's important now is the continuing stream of new deals being announced by our companies to bring innovative, online subscription services to consumers. Napster would do well to do whatever it takes to come into compliance and then turn their full energies into launching a new, legitimate business."

Yesterday's hearing follows a March 5th modified injunction handed down by Judge Patel, after her initial injunction against Napster from last year was ruled to be too stringent by a federal appeals court in February. The appeals court claimed that the injunction prevented artists who willingly chose to place their music on Napster from doing so. (Just last week, Prince chose to make "The Work - Pt. 1" -- the first single from his upcoming album, The Rainbow Children, available on Napster.)

Patel has asked Nichols and counsel for both the RIAA and Napster to take part in a Friday conference call to discuss the matter.

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