Napster in a coma

I know, I know, it's serious

Judge Whatsherface (Marilyn Hall Patel) has ruled that Napster will have to remain dead until it can assure him that no copyrighted tracks at all will remain on the file-exchange servers.

Since this is like counting grains of sand on a beach, the future of Napster does not look good (until that is, it is run entirely by a music company). It is appealing against the decision of course but things look terminal.

The music industry really really doesn't like Napster and would like nothing better than it collapse and die, so you can expect labels to continue with their self-righteous posturing. Napster, to its credit, has tried incredibly hard to filter out ripped MP3s but in hindsight this was probably the wrong thing to do. There is no way on earth it can block all selected tracks (has no one learnt that about the Internet yet?) but by attempting to do so, it effectively put itself at the mercy of the music industry.

And the industry has given Napster the thumbs down.

Another reason why Napster should perhaps have gone out in a blaze of glory is that it's sad to see this once great champion of Internet freedom reduced to the stakes of an e-bum. It was pumping out nearly three billion downloads a month at its peak, but recent figures show that has reduced to a sorry 140 million a month - down 95 per cent. Mind you, that's still 4.6 million a day.

It didn't help either when the company disabled old versions of the software and insisted people download the new "safe" version. People fled. If anything its enormous decline has beaten its meteoric rise back in the halcyon days. The remaining users are apparently sharing just over one song on average. It used to be over 200.

So has the music industry won? No, but it has bought time and influence. There's still Audio Galaxy, Gnutella, Kazaa et al.

Plus, the labels have woken up to the Net's potential. Sure they are working their nuts off to create a comfortable duopoly so they can rip us all off, but EU competition commissioner Mario Monti is on their backs about that one.

On top of this a VP of music distributor DX3 has been making publicity garnering comments about music companies being "forced" to provide hit records over the Internet. It's self-publicity of course, but it helps that he's absolutely right.

So Napster is just ebbing away now and the relatives have been asked to come in and hold its hand. You didn't really think that we'd get away with it, did you? ®

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