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Music Fans Seek Napster Alternatives

July 27, 2000

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ With the shutdown of Napster appearing imminent Thursday, users of the online song-swapping service scrambled to the Internet to discuss alternate means for trading free bootleg recordings.

Unlike Napster’s clearinghouse model, those alternatives enable decentralized file-sharing _ a technology no court or law enforcement agency can stop.

A judge hearing a lawsuit filed by the recording industry granted an injunction Wednesday that would effectively shut down Napster Friday night for infringing on copyrights.

Napster’s lawyers asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to stay the order, arguing that the decision would bring down the company and force it to lay off its 40 employees within days.

``This would essentially destroy Napster as a business, and deprive the more than 20 million Napster users of their service,″ Napster said in its motion.

Napster’s motion said Chief U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel had erred by attempting to ``adapt existing copyright provisions to the new realities of Internet technology.″

On Thursday, Web sites providing information on alternative song-swapping software were heavy with traffic.

By midday, more than 31,000 people had used a lesser-known Internet service called Scour Exchange to share more than two million songs.

Scour works like Napster, but in addition to providing audio in the popular MP3 compressed format, Scour also offers constantly updated directories of video and picture files available for free trading online.

Other programs, the best known of them Gnutella, work on a distributed network system. Instead of having central servers maintain a list of available files, each user’s computer is in effect a server.

One Web site that serves as vast resource of information on Gnutella was so overwhelmed with visitors operators had to take the service down for hours and planned to increase bandwidth to handle the traffic.

``I have Gnutella and it’s supposed to be RIAA proof,″ wrote ``embrya120″ in a Yahoo chat room Thursday, referring to the Recording Industry Association of America, the plaintiff in the Napster case.

``So do I. It’s good because you can get movies too,″ replied ``S_mooth_86″, another chatter.

In the Napster chat rooms, revolt was on the minds of many.

``Hey hey ... did everyone sign the boycott against the RIAA?″ wrote ``XsexyserialkillaX″ in another chat room.

Organizers of one Web site started an online petition for people who pledge to abstain from buying CDs while Napster is shut down.

A Napster spokesman said the number of users logged on to the company’s servers Thursday was at an all-time high.

Kireau Kendrick, who runs a cafe with computers for rent by the hour in San Mateo, Calif., planned to download as much music as she could in case Napster is forced to shut down Friday.

``I kind of canceled all my appointments until midnight Friday and I’m going to try and download all the music I can between now and then,″ Kendrick said. She said she was considering using other programs like Gnutella.

Don Marti, an open source software advocate and member of the Silicon Valley Linux Users Group, calls Napster ``a parasite on the Internet″ and said Gnutella was a better choice for file-sharing.

``Napster is going down in flames, as they should. The real changes in the music industry are going to come from the bands, not from a bunch of lawyers and venture capitalists,″ he said.

Gnutella was created by programmers working for America Online, which discontinued its development this year, but not after the program was downloaded and spread over the Internet, where dozens of its clones thrive. A few mouse clicks after launching the program, the user is soon connected to everyone logged on to the system.

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On the Net:

http://www.napster.com

http://gnutella.wego.com

http://daugava.com/gnutella.htm

http://www.scour.com