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Napster Use Plummets

Confirming the inevitable, a Cambridge, Mass., firm that researches digital entertainment said songs available for download on Napster immediately fell by 60 percent this week, when the California company began to protect the songs' copyrights.

Webnoize said its analysis showed that Napster's efforts to block access to songs requested by the Recording Industry Association of America had an instant effect on its song-sharing community.

Before Wednesday evening, when Napster began screening access to files of 135,000 songs on an RIAA list, Napster users were each sharing an average of 172 song files. Webnoize said that once file filtering began, the average number of sharable songs fell to 71 per user, a 59 percent drop.

"Napster is successfully filtering many songs from its system," Matt Bailey, a Webnoize analyst, said. "It is not just the number of files available that has fallen sharply. The number of downloads per user has also dropped by half."

Webnoize said the downward trend is likely to accelerate once Napster's filtering improves.

The firm said it was still able to find digital files by most of the music stars whose songs the RIAA asked Napster to block, including Alabama, the Beach Boys, Barenaked Ladies, Eminem, Elvis Presley, George Winston, Genesis and Pink Floyd. It also found songs by other artists, including 98 Degrees and A Perfect Circle, by adding certain characters to a search.

"Further titles will be blocked in the coming days, pushing content available through Napster down further," Bailey said. "Users will quickly migrate to alternative systems."

Napster's actions resulted from lawsuits brought by the RIAA and music publishers, who claimed the company was violating their copyrights by allowing users to share songs for free.

A federal court issued an injunction March 5 backing the RIAA and requiring Napster to comply with copyright law by Wednesday.