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Judge orders Napster off-line; company requests stay pending appeal

SHARE Judge orders Napster off-line; company requests stay pending appeal

SAN FRANCISCO — Napster escaped a legal mess when it settled a suit filed by heavy metal band Metallica, but the embattled song-swapping company still faces a federal judge's order demanding the service remain off-line until it prevents all unauthorized song trading.

Napster requested an emergency stay of U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel's latest order pending appeal from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Patel told Napster on Wednesday to stay off-line until its file-sharing software is perfected. Napster attorneys called Patel's edict from the bench out of step with an earlier appeals court ruling.

"This draconian relief is particularly unjust in light of the fact that Napster's newly implemented filtering technologies have an error rate of less than 1 percent," Napster's attorneys wrote in their request for an emergency stay to Patel's order.

Napster chief executive Hank Barry said his company would grudgingly play by the new rules

"Napster will obey this order, as we have every order that the court has issued. We believe the judge's order is inconsistent with the 9th Circuit's decision and wrong on a variety of other grounds," Barry said.

Thursday also brought an end to copyright infringement lawsuits filed against Napster by Metallica and rap artist Dr. Dre. Financial terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but as part of the agreement Metallica will allow some of the band's songs to be traded on Napster's system once a legal business model has been launched.

"I think we've resolved this in a way that works for fans, recording artists and songwriters alike," said Lars Ulrich, Metallica's drummer.

Napster has been off-line since July 2, when the Redwood City-based company took down its computer servers after its upgraded audio fingerprinting technology failed to catch all of the copyright music being traded by online users.

Napster was ready to restart its service, claiming it had retooled the screening software to block more than 99 percent of unauthorized song files.

However, Judge Patel shot down the notion that Napster could quietly come back online without 100 percent effectiveness. She told the company not to restart the service until it could prove to her that no unauthorized song files would get through the system.

Napster sought relief from Patel's order by the end of Friday to avoid "irreparable harm" to its service, the company told the appeals court.