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Napster Metallica ban proving hard to enforce

Band fans slip back onto the service, non-fans get booted off

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Napster's attempts to block over 300,000 alleged Metallica pirates are proving rather difficult to enforce.

Despite releasing an update to its MP3 'seek, locate, download' software that blocks those accused of copyright infringement, many blocked users are sneaking back onto the service - and they're spreading the word to others how they did it on the company's own BBS.

Napster's response, according to CNet, has been to warn BBS users that anyone posting this information will be blocked too. Get real, Napster. If they're not going to use your own BBS, expect a host of Web sites and Usenet newsgroups to spring up in its place. And attempting to block individual IP addresses, as Napster is threatening to do, is doomed to failure when switching IP addresses is so easy - just use a different machine or sign up with an ISP that dynamically issues IP addresses on dial-up.

As one user told The Register: "My account just stopped working, so I had to reapply with a new name, and happiness returned."

That will provoke ever more draconian moves from Napster, and that could see its users increasingly turning against the company.

Which is, of course, exactly what Metallica wants. Band drummer and chief spokesman Lars Ulrich has said that he'd like to see Napster shut down, and at this rate he may get his wish. Like MP3.com's MyMP3.com service, Napster has always been a hostage to fortune, and if Metallica hadn't sued, some other band - right or wrong; it's certainly a moot point - would have done so sooner or later.

And there seems some confusion over who is and isn't a Metallica pirate. Our emailer wrote: "I can't stand their music. Is Metallica guilty of falsely inflating their own perception of their popularity by throwing all Napster users into a heap... and then labeling that [heap] as... 'metallica pirates'. If the term means 'I wouldn't pay for this crap', then so be it - I am a mettalica pirate. But please don't accuse me of actually liking them enough to download any MP3s by them. I used Napster that weekend, but wasn't one of the maybe five or so people that actually did download any metallica."

Metallica submitted over 343,000 names. Napster blocked just over 317,000 of them, suggesting it found no evidence of piracy among the missing 26,000 - assuming it found the right 26,000.

Right now, users' ire remains targeted at Metallica, not Napster, but the software company's actions, if they continue, could so easily turn that around. Particularly now that rapper Dr Dre is said to be preparing his own list of alleged pirates he wants Napster to block. In short, this is all going to get very messy indeed. ®

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