US appeal court sets date for Napster trial

Has Napster's request for RIAA case to be thrown out failed?

The US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has named the date for the commencement of the Recording Industry Association of America's landmark copyright infringement case against MP3 sharing software developer Napster.

The trial will begin on 2 October, with both sides making their opening statements, Reuters reports. The Court did not indicate the make-up of the triumvirate of judges that will oversee the trial.

The fact that a trial date has been suggests that the appeals court has not agreed to Napster's motion to have the RIAA's injunction against it thrown out completely, which the software company's lawyers requested on 18 August.

Their request follows the Court of Appeal's decision to rescind the preliminary injunction imposed upon Napster by District Court Judge Marilyn Patel on 26 July. Instead, the appeals judges ruled, Napster should be allowed to operate, since the case raises issues of precedent that call into question Patel's own ruling.

The trial was originally set for 18 August, but Napster lawyers instead filed a brief requesting the RIAA's requested permanent injunction against Napster be denied. The RIAA was given until 8 September to respond. It's not yet clear whether the organisation, which represents many of the US' music companies but primarily the 'big five', has responded, or whether the Appeals Court is simply following standard procedure.

Certainly if the Court agrees to Napster's latest request, it pretty much negates the need for a trial. So whether the RIAA has filed or it hasn't, it looks like the Appeals Court, for one, believes the case will come to court.

Since the 18 August request, various trade bodies and companies have filed 'friends of the court' briefs placing their own suggestions to the court on record, to bring to the court's attention parallel issues such as the effect of any ruling on listeners' rights to access music; copyright issues in the online world; and potentially overzealous protection for intellectual property.

It's issues such as these that provoked the Appeals Court to block Judge Patel's injunction in the first place, and almost certainly why it wishes to see the case come to court, so that precedents for future cases can be set. ®

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For more Napster stories, check out The Register's full coverage of the controversy

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