D-Day For Downloads

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Before a federal appeals court ruled Monday that the music-swapping service Napster must stop trading in copyrighted material, fans of the site scrambled Sunday to download as much music as possible.

Four months after an Oct. 2 hearing in the landmark copyright infringement case, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco issued its ruling Monday on the recording industry's request that Napster be ordered to stop enabling users to swap songs for free.

Fans began flocking to Napster's site immediately after the appeals court said it would announce its opinion. But with the decision looming, the was besieged on Sunday. One Napster server listed more than 2.2 million swapped files among 13,000 users.

"Almost 10,000 users were logging on to each of Napster's 100 servers on Sunday at any one time," said Bruce Forest, an intellectual property protection specialist for Sapient Corp. consulting company, adding that nearly 2 million songs were being swapped on each server.

Read the Ruling
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Napster must stop allowing trade in copyrighted materials or face infringement charges.
Napster's servers normally accommodate about 6,000 users at a time. "I tried to log on to Napster last night, but I wasn't able to get in. It was too busy," said one junior high school student and Napster fan in New York.

The court decision, a key turning point in the case viewed as the first big battle regarding copyrights online, could impact the future of books, movies and music distribution.

Net-savvy music lovers say that even if Napster were to be shut down, music fans will just go to alternative means to download songs for free online.

"Thousands of users are also logging on to independent servers like MusicCity, OpenNap and PowerNap, which use the same server software as Napster but will be unaffected by Monday's court decision," Forest said.

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Since the lawsuit was first filed in December 1999, Napster's popularity has surged. To date, it has amassed nearly 60 million users who use it to swap songs for free.

Jupiter Media Metrix, which tracks Web site usage, says the number of Napster users increased 603 percent last year — from 1.3 million in February, 2000 to 9.1 million in December, 2000. In December, the site logged over 4 million visitors and an average of 185,000 visitors daily.

Napster was the 27th most popular home application and the 50th most popular application at work, Media Matrix reported.

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