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Music Industry Still Gunning for Napster

The Recording Industry Association of America and the National Music Publishers Association fired the next shot in the legal war against Napster Inc. late Monday night by filing a request for a preliminary injunction against the MP3 file-swapping firm.

The groups members, composed of recording industry luminaries, academians and artists, claimed widespread copyright infringement and industry harm as reasons supporting the requested injunction. This time, the disgruntled parties are using the results from a detailed study to back up their claims.

The Field Research Corp. conducted a study of 2,555 college students who were Internet users. In a report submitted by E. Deborah Jay, the study shows a direct correlation between Napster use and decreased CD sales.

"(Nearly half) of Napster users ... described the nature of its impact on their music purchases in a way which either explicitly indicated or suggested that Napster displaces CD sales," said the Field Study. "The more songs Napster users have downloaded, the more apt they are to say explicitly or suggest that Napster has reduced their music purchases."

According to statistical analyses filed with the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California, essentially every single Napster user sampled was engaged in some copyright infringement while using the Napster service and the majority of songs actually copied and downloaded on Napster, over 87 percent are infringing.

The plaintiffs argued that a preliminary injunction should be issued because the music industry will likely succeed on their claims of contributory and copyright infringement, which they first took Napster to court over Dec. 7 of last year. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include A&M Records Inc., Geffen Records Inc. and Sony Music Entertainment, Inc.

"This is not just about online versus offline," said Hilary Rosen, president and chief executive officer of the RIAA. "Most in the online business community recognize that what Napster is doing threatens legitimate e-commerce models -- and is legally and morally wrong."

No stranger to legal battles with the RIAA, MP3.com Inc. CEO and Chairman Michael Robertson also submitted a declaration in support of the motion stating that file sharing services like Napster do nothing to promote emerging artists and that MP3.com has not authorized Napster to distribute the music of MP3.com artists.

"In my view, Napster is not designed to promote or share the music of unknown or lesser known artists. The only way to find a song on Napster is to enter the name of the song and/or artist that the user wants to find," said Robertson.

Others filing declarations include: Michael Fine, CEO, SoundScan Inc., Dr. David J. Teece, professor at Berkeley University; Ingram Olkin, professor of statistics and education at Stanford University and Charles Robbins, owner, Oliver's Records, Syracuse, N.Y.

Last month, Fine's SoundScan published a study trying to link the decrease of university record store sales to Napster's popularity.

Responding to the claims in a statement Tuesday afternoon, Napster CEO Hank Barry said his company was trying to settle with the plaintiffs, but that a fundamental difference in opinion was holding them back.

"The RIAA's position in all of this is, as they say, dij` vu all over again," Barry said. "Every time an innovation has made it easier for people to enjoy music more conveniently and less expensively, the music industry has complained and tried to slow the adoption of the technology. And every time, the music industry has nonetheless benefited."

Essentially calling the SoundScan study a hazardous shot in the dark, Barry picked it apart:

"First, the RIAA tries to drum up proof of lost sales due to Napster, but its effort