Napster Optimistic It Can Handle Screening Requirements

Company's CEO says effective filtering system necessary to avoid being shut down.

Napster is sorting through a list of 135,000 copyrighted songs dumped on its lap last week by the major labels, and the company plans to begin screening out tens of thousands of those songs by Wednesday, CEO Hank Barry said.

Napster filed a court document on Monday (March 12) detailing its efforts to remove copyrighted material in compliance with last week's injunction, Barry said at a press conference. The file-sharing service is improving its screening methods every day and is confident it can handle the labels' demands to remove material, he said.

"What the plaintiffs are saying is that there is no system for screening file names that will work, and therefore you need to shut down," Barry said. "The goal is to shut us down, and the mechanism to do that is to say we can't effectively screen in accordance with the injunction. [But] I believe that we can [screen], I believe that we are and that we're going to do a better job in the future."

Doug Curry, spokesperson for the Recording Industry Association of America, said Monday evening that the RIAA had not yet seen Napster's compliance plan. "We have no reason to believe that they will not comply with the court's order," Curry said.

Sony Music alone sent Napster 95,000 song titles on Friday, Barry said. But he claimed that Sony violated the terms of the injunction by not specifying actual file names for almost half of those titles, which relieves Napster of the responsibility for removing them. Users name their own files on Napster, which means that a song like Outkast's "Ms. Jackson," off their album Stankonia, could appear as "Miz Jackson," "Stankonia - Ms. Jackson," or any number of other names.

Napster is developing a system to block such alternate spellings, Barry said, but the injunction requires record companies to name at least one file name. A Sony Music spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

Napster is also developing ways to block deliberate sabotage of the screening system by users, such as the "Pig Encoder," which changes file names to a pig-Latin-like code (see "UPDATE: Napster Filtering Hits Snags As Users Try To Outwit System"). The programmers behind the encoder — who also developed the file-sharing competitor Aimster — plan to remove the program from their Web site soon, Barry said, though it was still available at Aimster.com on Monday night.

(For complete coverage of the Napster saga, check out MTV News' "Napster Files.")