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Napster is stayin’ alive — for now

SHARE Napster is stayin’ alive — for now

The unsteady waters of Napster are calm again — at least for the time being.

Not that some of its users were overly concerned that it would be shut down. When it was suggested to Emily Lewis of Salt Lake City that she should download some songs before the site was possibly shut down Friday, she treated it as a bit of an afterthought.

"Oh," Lewis said. "Maybe I will."

Two federal appeals judges Friday granted Napster Inc. a temporary injunction, allowing it to remain active on the Web.

Napster Inc. the much-discussed Web site that allows its users to share music files, can continue to allow people to trade copyrighted music online while it appeals a preliminary injunction, allowing the company, based in San Mateo, Calif., and developed by 19-year-old Shawn Fanning, to continue to conduct business as usual.

The Recording Industry Association of America filed suit against Napster in December, claiming Napster cost the music industry more than $300 million in lost sales.

Musicians from Metallica and Dr. Dre also claimed to have lost money, but Napster users around the Salt Lake area believe the site is, if nothing else, a way to learn more about new musicians they wouldn't have otherwise.

"It's so nice to have a song downloading while you're on the computer and listen to it," Lewis said, who has actively used Napster for the past eight months.

"I don't think it's a rip-off for the artist(s) because, if anything, it makes you want to listen to more of their music and buy the CD."

Also a concern is whether trading computer music files — or MP3s — violates copyright laws.

Napster allows its users to trade such files by connecting to a centralized server and searching for songs on other people's personal computers.

However, even if Napster is eventually shut down, similar budding sites, such as Gnutella and Freenet, can still operate on non-centralized servers.

"If they shut down one server, it doesn't matter. It's almost impossible to stop it," said Adam Welling of Salt Lake City , who recently made the switch from Napster to Gnutella. "And without one company backing it, they've got no one to sue."

And, as far as sales are concerned, Graywhale CD Exchange hasn't yet felt any repercussions.

"Locally, this is our best year ever. Our sales are probably up 15 percent," said Steve Gray, founder of the chain, with stores from Logan to Cedar City. "So far, so good, but we're still walking around with our fingers crossed.

"(Sites like Napster) are like plutonium for us. This could play out and be a great thing for the industry or cause a meltdown. We're at a crossroads right now."

E-mail: dmoody@desnews.com