Napster Filter More Like a Sieve

Napster’s new filtering program began Sunday, with little effect on users looking to download files. Following a district court hearing Friday, the file-trading company said it would implement a filtering system that would block 1 million file names from its directory. The blocking software was added Sunday evening, but so far, the results have been mixed.

Napster’s new filtering program began Sunday, with little effect on users looking to download files.

Following a district court hearing Friday, the file-trading company said it would implement a filtering system that would block 1 million file names from its directory. The blocking software was added Sunday evening, but so far, the results have been mixed.

Songs from the band Metallica and rapper Dr. Dre — along with most other major-label artists — are still available on the system, despite the fact that lawyers representing both artists have submitted song titles and names to Napster to be included in the filtering.

In fact, a cursory search by Wired News shows that unaltered song titles from both Metallica and Dr. Dre still exist in the directory.

The reason: the song filtering software still hasn’t been refined.

“If you search a song from Metallica, a zillion of them still come up,” said Metallica lawyer Howard King. “The song titles are altered a little bit. Napster’s search engine is sophisticated enough to find the song, but the filtering system isn’t sophisticated to find this.”

King said some users had inserted the number 20 (as in, “I_20_Disappear,” as opposed to the song title “I Disappear”) within the song title, which apparently had allowed the songs to sneak through the software program.

Despite the system leakage, King said he wasn’t upset that the filtering program hadn’t yet accomplished everything Napster promised.

“Obviously when you wait until the Ninth Circuit rules and you have a two-week time frame to get this system in place, I can appreciate that they still need to fine-tune it,” King said. “If they would have done this a year ago when we first asked them to do this, we’d have a fine-tuned filter right now.

“But I’m not really upset, as long as they continue to refine the system.”

Napster’s proposed system would block file names from showing up in its directory as new songs are added to the filter. The music files would still exist on the original user’s hard drive, but other Napster users wouldn’t know the file was available.

Napster officials have said the system is running, and songs will continue to be added to the filter.

Recording Industry Association of America CEO Hilary Rosen expressed her desire to see Napster continue to develop its filtering system as well.

“We expect that (Napster) will honor the representations that they made to the court,” Rosen said in a written statement.

On Feb. 12, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the basic tenets of federal district Judge Marilyn Patel’s ruling that the Napster service violated copyright law, and should therefore be enjoined from offering its file-trading service while a jury trial determined the legality of the system.

The three-judge panel sent the case back to Patel with specific instructions on how she should develop her new injunction. In granting the injunction, the appeals court held that Napster would most likely lose its case at trial and would be held accountable for any copyright infringements that have occurred within its system.

Author: Brad King

News Service: Wired News

URL: http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,42196,00.html