RIAA Seeks Napster Judgement

Recording Industry seeks to establish liability

August 9, 2001 12:00 AM ET

The Recording Industry Association of America requested an October 1st hearing in its case against Napster, hoping that U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Patel will issue a summary judgement for liability against the song-swapping software company.

The RIAA filed a preliminary injunction against Napster last year, essentially asking the court to have Napster halt what the RIAA charged was illegal trading of copyrighted material. With the summary judgement, the issue of liability comes to the fore, as the RIAA is asking Patel to hold Napster accountable for any copyright infringement that its has committed. No damages are rewarded as a direct result of a summary judgement, but once liability has been established the legal proceedings are likely to move towards a damages phase, which according to copyright law will be based on a per-infringement basis.

"The evidence in this case is clear and irrefutable," said Matt Oppenheim, RIAA senior vice president for business and legal affairs. "Napster knowingly and willfully set out to build a business based on copyright infringement on an unprecedented scale."

Napster is planning to launch a subscription-based service later this summer, and had voluntarily gone offline after their filtering systems weren't able to block 100 percent of unauthorized material from their site. In early July, Patel ordered Napster to remain offline until it was totally compliant, but a federal appeals court overturned her ruling a week later. The company also received two endorsements in July from Metallica and Dr. Dre. Both settled copyright infringement lawsuits they filed against Napster last year and vowed to contribute material to the Napster database once the company successfully implemented its subscription-based plan.

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