Napster injuncted

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) obtained an injunction on Wednesday preventing the controversial internet site Napster from enabling its users to share recorded copyright music, stored as MP3 files.

The injunction, which will take effect from midnight on Friday 28 July until the full hearing at a date yet to be confirmed, means that Napster may not cause or assist internet users to duplicate copyright recorded material which belongs to RIAA members.

The RIAA issued proceedings against Napster last year claiming that the service it provides to users constitutes contributory and vicarious copyright infringement.

Napster failed in an earlier application for summary dismissal of the case on the grounds that it could not be held responsible for people who abused its software by infringing copyright in RIAA members’ sound recordings (the “mere conduit” defence, available to ISPs under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act 1998). The judge rejected this argument ruling that the “mere conduit” defence did not apply to Napster, whose business was distinguishable from that of an ISP since it connected users through the internet, rather than connecting users to the internet.

At the hearing this week, Napster argued that its software had legitimate uses and that even if some users were abusing the software, Napster should not be held responsible. In rejecting Napster’s defence the judge said that the “guts of the Napster system is to facilitate the uploading and downloading of music, much of which is copyrighted”.

Napster’s lawyer argued that the injunction was impossible to implement, since not all the shared files contained copyright material and the file sharing section of its website would therefore have to be closed down. The judge was unimpressed by this. She said it was for Napster to “figure out a way not to facilitate copying of copyrighted material” and was not prepared to place the burden of identifying that material on the RIAA.

Napster said that the injunction would cause irreparable damage to its business and requested that the RIAA pay a bond of between US$800 million to US$1.5 billion to cover Napster’s losses in the event that it won at full trial. The judge set the bond at US$5 million.


RIAA v MP3.com/Napster: recent developments

Bulletins are for general guidance only. Legal advice should be sought before taking action in relation to specific matters. Where reference is made to Court decisions facts referred to are those reported as found by the Court. Please note that past bulletins included in the Archive have not been updated by any subsequent changes in statute or case law.