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Napster usage stats support RIAA claims

Download numbers highlight attempts to get as much stuff for free as possible before closure

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The prospect that Napster might be shut down last week appears to have triggered a rash of last-minute downloads from the MP3 sharing service, according to data from Internet-oriented market researcher NetValue.

The company's stats show that the volume of Napster downloads between 26 July and 28 July was four times higher than usual. Friday 28 July was Napster's deadline for closure before the US Appeal Court overruled an earlier District Court judgement against the software company.

It's very hard not to conclude that the sudden burst of download activity wasn't anything more than an attempt to grab as many free tracks as possible before the service was terminated.

That should please the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), since it pretty much confirms its contention that Napster is primarily used to avoid paying for music. Napster may lead to increased CD sales, but users' basic motivation is to get stuff for free. The service was set to end on Friday 28 July, so all its users quadrupled their efforts to get songs they would have had to pay for if they waited until after that date.

In the end, Napster's appeal has permitted it to continue operating, so the real test will be whether download activity as pre-shutdown levels is maintained or users ease off now there's no threat of closure.

In the run-up to the trial, more than eight million people used Napster last month, up 40 per cent on the previous month, according to NetValue's numbers. UK usage has more than sextupled between March and June. ®

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