Napster Says It Has Done All It Can To Block Songs

Says 10 million file names have been blocked, but says labels have not done enough to help.

Having blocked 10.6 million file names representing about 60,000 songs, Napster claims it has now done everything in its power to comply with a federal court's order that it prevent copyrighted material from being traded through its servers.

But in a compliance report delivered to the court in San Francisco on Tuesday, the company accused record companies and the Recording Industry Association of America of not holding up their end of the bargain.

The company reported to the court that it has blocked 6 million file names. Another 4.6 million files have been blocked since the report was filed, a Napster spokesperson said on Thursday morning (March 15).

While detailing the work it has done to block users from finding copyrighted songs, Napster reiterated something it has claimed all along. Its database of millions of blocked files is riddled with duplicate names for the same song. Because the possibilities for alternate file names are virtually limitless, the company said the only way to make absolutely sure no copyrighted files are traded is to shut down the system entirely.

The company's report also accuses the labels and the RIAA of misinterpreting U.S. District Judge Marilyn Patel's injunction and not doing their part to provide the file-sharing service with both song titles and various file names.

The recording industry disagrees. "We believe the court's intent is clear," RIAA spokesperson Amy Weiss said on Tuesday. "Napster is required to stop infringing. Stall tactics are unacceptable."

Napster's report asked the court for a "prompt resolution" to the dispute over who is ultimately responsible for identifying copyrighted files for removal.

Napster CEO Hank Barry said Monday that many of the 135,000 file names submitted by the labels Friday were duplicates, and that Sony Music — which alone sent Napster 95,000 song titles — failed to provide file names for nearly half of those titles. Without file names, not only do the lists fail to comply with the injunction, Napster claims, but they present Napster with "impossible levels" of information to wade through.

A Sony spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

The report also responds to the labels' request that it block files that contain any title that has been identified as one of the works the labels own, regardless of the artist recording it. For instance, Sony has requested blocking Bob Dylan's "I Want You" by title only. Napster argued that would require blocking other songs with the same by other artists. Blocking the Dylan song might filter out different songs by the likes of Elvis Costello, Melissa Etheridge and Marvin Gaye.

But Napster said it is going ahead and implementing filtering measures that result in the exclusion of songs other than the one intended by the copyright owner. By blocking the file "Metallica - Enter Sandman," Napster will also screen out covers of the song by other artists, including Pat Boone and Motorhead, none of which it claims have been requested for screening. The report also accuses Metallica of effectively submitting songs by Creed — who, like Metallica, have a song called "Unforgiven" — the Rolling Stones and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

In addition to its filtering process, Napster said it has instituted a "Police BOT" software program that patrols the service's index for file name variations, which are then analyzed by a Napster employee, who will block "reasonable file name variations."

The report claims the cost of implementing filtering so far has been 2,700 hours and $150,000 in salary. Napster projects that the work of its 12-person compliance team will cost nearly $1 million.

Napster does appear to be making some progress in terms of blocking files with correct song titles, though users appeared to be continuing to find ways to work around that. A search for Eminem's "Stan" Wednesday yielded no hits. A search for his "The Way I Am" brought up no exact matches, but dozens of files labeled "The Way That I Am" did appear. Likewise, a search for Nelly's "Country Grammar" returned "Country gGrammar," "Country 1Grammar" and "Counrty Grammar."

At least one method of side-stepping Napster's screening bit the dust Tuesday. Aimster, which claimed to see an increase of 25,000 - 50,000 new users a day in the weekend following Napster's file-screening announcement, removed its Pig Encoder download from its site Tuesday. It pulled the program — which changed file names from "Stan" to "tanS," for instance — voluntarily at Napster's request, according to Aimster CEO Johnny Deep.

A Napster spokesperson said Wednesday that the company received a "fairly large" number of additional song titles and file names Monday night and Tuesday, though she did not know the exact number or the sources. The compliance report claims that 130,000 song titles and artist names were delivered on Monday (March 12).

Napster also announced Tuesday that it is teaming with Gracenote, a music-file recognition service, to bolster its screening capabilities. Gracenote, which can identify CDs when Internet-connected users slip them into their computers, claims to have a database with 3 million variations on more than 9 million artist/song-title pairs. For instance, it has 50 variations on spellings for 'NSYNC, according to the report.

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

(This report was updated at 1:10 p.m. ET Thursday, March 15, 2001.)