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Napster: 20 million users
July 19, 2000: 5:27 p.m. ET

Embattled song-swap service says users have doubled since April
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NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Napster on Wednesday said its membership has soared to more than 20 million users, all of whom could be unplugged from the embattled song-swap service next week if a California judge grants an injunction requested by the recording industry.

"Driven by America's passion for music and cutting edge technology, Napster, the world's largest file sharing community, announced today that its community of users now exceeds 20 million people, as defined by the number of unique user accounts," the privately held company said.

graphicNapster allows Web users to search through the San Mateo, Calif.-based company's servers for songs that exist on the computers of other participants across the globe. Those songs, compressed into the popular MP3 file format, can then be copied to a user's hard drive via the Internet.

The Recording Industry Association of America, which represents the major recording companies, sued Napster in December, charging that the 10-month-old service fosters an environment for copyright infringement, and asking that the courts shut Napster down.

In a brief filed on July 3, Napster claimed that the online trading of MP3 music files falls within the parameters of the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992, which permits copying music for personal use. The RIAA wrote that the federal law provides no legal haven for copyright infringement.

The RIAA responded by saying that the making and distributing of unauthorized copies of copyrighted works by Napster users is not "sharing," "any more than stealing apples from your neighbor's tree is 'gardening.'"

Both sides are scheduled to appear in San Francisco July 26 before Chief Judge Marilyn Hall Patel of the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California.

Membership has doubled since April

Experts say that even if the court rules against Napster, the company's technology and 20 million users are seen as a valued commodity by other enterprises, including the recording industry. Using a community-based model, content providers could target sales and advertising toward users based on their taste and habits.

Napster said is membership has doubled since the end of April 2000, and is expanding at a faster pace than previous hot Web applications such as Microsoft Corp's Hotmail free e-mail service.

The company said it recorded its millionth user on November 19, 1999, and the list grew to ten million in April. The Napster service is accessed by over four million individual users each day, as defined by unique Internet addresses, the company said. Up to 500,000 users are concurrently active at any given time on any given day.

"In just over a year Napster has attracted a community of more than 20 million music fans who are sampling music, discovering new artists, buying CDs and sharing their passion for their favorite artists in our chat rooms," said Hank Barry, Napster's chief executive. Back to top


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