By Robert Menta- 4/11/01
Day one of the Napster trial didn't go well for the company as stern words came from Judge Marilyn Hall Patel that echoed throughout the courtroom. Calling Napster's efforts to filter copyright music from its service '"disgraceful", the court let all parties know that it sided closer to the higher standard the music companies want to use to grade Napster's success.
Earlies, Napster's lawyers told the court that by blocking over 1.7 million files and by buying music tracking company Gigabeat to further improve their efforts, they exercised due diligence in complying with the court's order.
Despite the legitimate culling over 1 1/2 million songs, Big Music was unsatisfied. The record industry complained that files from the list they delivered to Napster were still available, a fact that was exacerbated by user attempts to circumvent the filters including the intentional misspelling of artist names. The record industry wants the judge to define success through a higher standard of the complete eradication of all listed files. Anything less, even by just a few songs, is failure to comply.
Judge Patel's reaction in court clearly expressed her dissatisfaction with Napster's progress, a win for the record companies. Patel told Napster's attorneys to get compliant with the court-ordered injunction and followed it by these foreboding words, "If you can't, maybe the system needs to be shut down".
During the heated court hearing, both sides engaged in a contentious 90 minute debate that seemed to tax judge Patel's patience. In the end, of a list of 6,000 songs to be purged from Napster most were still available and the judge found that unacceptable, generating her threatening words.
To be fair to Napster's claim that they are doing everything to improve their filtering system, the court recently named a technology expert agreed upon by both sides to analyze and help arbitrate this matter. Judge Patel feels she needs assistance to accurately gauge the capability of the filtering technology and what steps are reasonably needed to improve it. The judge is also trying to give both parties what they need to settle this matter among themselves.
The expert, Dr. A.J. Nichols, will first test his mettle this Friday when he joins Judge Patel and one representative each from Napster and the recording industry to decide what steps are needed bring Napster into compliance.
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