- The Washington Times - Friday, July 28, 2000

Napster fans and neophytes dashed to the Internet Thursday, chatting about their favorite music -sharing service and trying to download its software before the site shuts down at midnight Friday.

A San Francisco judge granted the injunction against the Redwood City, Calif.-based company Wednesday, and it will remain in effect pending the outcome of a copyright infringement suit filed by the Recording Industry Association of America.

Napster executives appealed the decision Thursday. They are scheduled to learn Friday morning at 9 a.m. PDT whether the injunction will be lifted, a company spokeswoman said.

The company's software, which can be downloaded from its Web site (www.napster.com), allows users to access its servers, essentially reaching into other users' hard drives to retrieve songs. The company reports 21.3 million people have downloaded the program since founder Shawn Fanning created it in his dorm room in January 1999.

Fans crowded Napster's chat rooms to discuss the shutdown Thursday, making it difficult to access the site. The company spokeswoman said the site's traffic was at a record high.

A disabled single mother posted a note on a Napster message board to thank the company for allowing her to download music for free and meet people through the service. She said she escaped depression by using Napster.

Another user wrote to encourage others to boycott CDs to protest the suit.

Georgetown student Jennifer Eggleston, 20, said she uses the service because it's easy and it hasn't decreased her compact disc-buying, as the Recording Industry Association of America has contended.

"If I really like an album, I'm going to go out and buy it anyway," she said.

On-line music sales are big business. Internet music spending will reach $5.4 billion by 2005, accounting for almost one-quarter of total industry spending, according to a report that Jupiter Communications released Thursday. That is up from $387 million in 1999, the New York Internet research firm said.

"In general, Jupiter found that free downloading services, like Napster, drive, rather than inhibit, music sales," read a company release.

Miss Eggleston tried to download an alternative service, Gnutella, Wednesday night, but was unsuccessful.

Gnutella, meanwhile, made a statement of its own regarding the court case, which has potential repercussions for it as well.

Instead of the service's usual site, a box appeared with an analogy: a man goes into a pub and offers to light another man's cigarette for 10 pence. The other man takes the light but ignores the first man's prohibition on giving it to others.

"Before long that whole side of the bar was enjoying MY fire without paying me anything," the anecdote read.

Nearly 40,000 users had accessed the site as of Thursday night.

Computer users also flocked to other alternative services. By midday Thursday, more than 31,000 people had used the lesser-known www.Scour.com, according to the Associated Press. The recording industry filed suit against Scour.com July 20.

Operators of those sites eagerly await the outcome of the Napster trial.

Manish Vij, founder and vice president of marketing for www.Spinfrenzy.com, said his Mountain View, Calif., company is officially neutral on the Napster case. But he'd like to see it finished.

"There needs to be some sort of resolution so the industry can move forward," he said.

His site is a teen-age destination that allows users to share homework problems as well as music.

"We're much more conciliatory in working with the industry" than Napster, Mr. Vij said. Spinfrenzy can block downloads of certain songs if the artist requests it; Napster has said it can only block by user, he said.

"I think Napster was too good to be true," said David Pakman, co-founder and senior vice president of business development for www.Myplay.com.

Myplay lets its 2 million users download files, but they cannot share them. And the company, based in Redwood City, Calif., pays royalties to musicians, so it avoids the copyright issue.

"It's now the challenge of the industry to come back with something, to produce applications and services that are just as fun, just as easy, but compensates the artists," Mr. Pakman said.

Noah Stone, director of the Los Angeles-based Artists Against Piracy, agreed.

"The music fans have spoken loud and clear. They want fast and easy music on the Internet," he said. They have to do it in a way that compensates artists for their work.

"The bottom line is, we believe that creativity has value. It's not just about money, it's about the whole notion that music has value," Mr. Stone added.

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