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Napster blocks 275,000 tracks

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Napster has claimed it has prevented 275,000 songs, hidden behind over 1.6 million filenames - ie. nearly six filenames for each song - from being downloaded since it introduced its court-imposed filtering software earlier this month.

The music-sharing software company made the claim in the latest round of its tit-for-tat battle with its music industry persecutors. So every time the Recording Industry Association of America claims Napster's not moving quickly enough to follow the court order to block songs owned by RIAA members from being downloads, Napster counters with the allegation that the RIAA isn't providing enough information to allow it to do so.

It's all a bit silly, really. They'll be talking swipes at each others' mothers and favourite football teams next.

The upshot of all this file-blocking activity, said Napster CEO Hank Barry, in a drop of 57 per cent in the number of files available for download at any one time on the Napster network, a slightly larger figure than the one estimated by Internet market researcher Webnoize last week. Barry said the average number of files shared by users has dropped from 198 to just 74.

All this has been done despite the music industry's inability to provide alternative filenames to the songs it wants blocked, said Barry. The RIAA was obliged to do so by the court.

There's certainly something unpleasantly triumphalist about the RIAA's harrying of Napster and the sharing software company's attempt to comply with the court order. To return to the playground metaphor, there is something of the bully in the RIAA's recent behaviour.

And Barry makes a fair point when he notes that the RIAA's most recent filing with the court claims the organisation knows of many tracks that haven't been blocked by Napster. Why, he asks, didn't it pass that information to him to be used to stop the tracks being downloaded, rather than just use it as the basis of a complaint?

Of course, with so many techniques available to sharers to hide song titles with obscure filenames, it's going to be hard for Napster to block everything. Then again, a number of commentators have reported that recognisable filenames representing songs from major artists continue to be shared via Napster's software, so you have to question how effective Napster's blocks are - there has to be more than six ways of spelling a track name to bypass the blocking code - no matter how honest is its intention to comply with the court order.

Ditto, the RIAA's demands. It may beat up Napster, but the tracks are still out there on Gnutella, etc. ®

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