Napster Can Go Back Online, Appeals Court Rules

Now that it says it can block all but a tiny fraction of unauthorized song-swapping, Napster Inc. can resume its operations on the Internet, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

The decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturns a federal judge's order last week ordering the company to remain offline until it can fully comply with an injhe order July 11 in a court hearing in which Napster said it was about to restart its music-sharing service after a short hiatus to retool song-screening software.

Napster, sued by the recording industry in 1999 for copyright infringement, said it could now block more than 99 percent of all infringing song files. But Patel told Napster it needed to block 100 percent of unauthorized, copyright songs or stay offline indefinitely.

Napster immediately sought relief from the appeals court, which overturned Patel in a two-sentence order.

Napster's free song-sharing service has been down since July 2, and when or whether it would be resumed was unclear.

"We have no immediate comment on when we are going to start," Napster spokeswoman Ricki Siedman said after the appeals court ruling.

Napster plans to deploy a paid subscription service later this year.

The Recording Industry Association of America noted that the court only temporarily lifted Patel's order and will hear arguments on the case later this year. At that time, the industry said it expects to prevail.

"We are confident that after a thorough review, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will uphold Judge Patel's decision," RIAA attorney Cary Sherman said.

Sherman said that the three-judge panel's decision still requires Napster to remove copyright works that both Patel and the appeals court have found were violating copyright laws.

"It is important to note that today's ruling does not change in any way the fact that Napster must prevent copyrighted works from appearing on its system as previously ordered by the court," Sherman said.