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Napster users, rest easy -- for now

The service can continue for now, judges rule. That decision came after many area teens spent all day downloading their favorite songs.

[Times photo: Ron Thompson]
Trevor Jones, left, and his friend Greg Ericson spent Friday at a friend's house downloading as many songs as possible from Napster.

By JORGE SANCHEZ

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 29, 2000


INVERNESS -- It looks as if computer-savvy music lovers here will get to use the Internet song-sharing system Napster a little while longer.

Two federal appeals judges granted a motion Friday to let the popular service stay open, just hours before a midnight deadline that would have shut it down.

Still, for many area teens, Friday was spent downloading their favorite songs before the plug was to be pulled on the site.

The Napster system was dealt a legal setback when a federal judge ordered it shut down by midnight Friday because of the likelihood that it was illegally transmitting copyright protected music.

The decision was praised by the Recording Industry Association of America, which sued Napster. But teenagers, who constitute the majority of people using Napster to get music at no cost, called the decision a real bummer.

Among those in Citrus County who spent hours on Friday downloading favorite songs was Trevor Jones, 16, of Inverness. Jones visited a friend's house for a lengthy downloading session.

"It just made me real angry when I heard it," Jones said. "And the thing is, most punk bands don't seem to mind Napster. They even have links to Napster and MP3 on their Web sites."

Jones downloads the Napster music on a personal computer and then goes one step further to "burn" the songs onto a blank CD, which holds about 74 minutes of music. That enables him to create his own CD collection -- for free.

"I've been downloading about three months," Jones said.

Napster uses a special software that allows users to share their musical libraries with each other. Users log on to the Napster site and search for a song by title or author and then download it from another user's computer hard drive.

The process is slow. It may take about 15 minutes to download a song, though the new cable modem Internet services such as Road Runner download a song in a minute or two.

Sharing computer time with Jones on Friday was Greg Ericson, 17. He downloads the songs and listens to them on his personal computer. Ericson also said the Napster decision came as bad news.

"I'm just sort of into it, but my sister downloads lots of music -- lots," he said.

The issue over Napster and other similar sites revolves around copyright protection. Acting on behalf of clients such as rockers Metallica and ex-Byrd founder Roger McGuinn, the record industry went to court. Their claim was that Napster was simply stealing music that was meant to be sold.

Jones said he thinks Napster will actually help record sales by exposing lesser known artists to the general public. And many recording artists seem to agree.

John Perry Barlow, songwriter for the Grateful Dead, recently wrote an article for the New York Times, which he posted on his Web site.

"When I reach through Napster to the hard disk of some kid in Ohio and grab his copy of, say, Cassidy by the Grateful Dead, I can also place it on my hard disk as I listen to it," Barlow wrote.

"It is this characteristic of Napster that so haunts the RIAA. They believe that making this copy is as clear a case of theft as if I'd shop-lifted a CD from Wal-mart.

"But what is being stolen? And from whom? Speaking as the fellow who co-wrote Cassidy, I don't believe that the kid in Ohio is injuring my economic interests by sharing it with others. Deadheads have been sharing our songs with each other for decades and it's done nothing but increase the demand for our work."

And there are other sites that offer basically the same service as Napster and are not affected by the Napster ruling.

"If we can't use Napster, we'll just find new ways to do it (download music)," Ericson said.

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