On Monday a three-member panel from the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that a lower court decision requiring Napster to immediately halt music swapping was "overbroad." This week's decision was anything but a victory for Napster, however, as the panel instructed US District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel to craft a narrower injunction that would still require Napster to block the trade of copyrighted music, something which the company had claimed is next to impossible. Even worse, the Appeals Court panel has indicated that Napster may be liable for monetary damages. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has claimed victory, while Napster has promised to appeal the retooled injunction and ask the full Ninth Circuit to review the case. In the short term, Napster service is not likely to change, but the future is very uncertain. If the injunction is ultimately upheld, the record companies will provide Napster with a lengthy list of copyrighted works that it must then devise a way to block (it has already identified 12,000 copyrighted songs traded on the service). If Napster does manage to block access to copyrighted works, its music library will likely shrink exponentially, notwithstanding plans to introduce a subscription service with Bertelsmann (BMG) this summer. If Napster cannot construct a technology to stop the trading of copyrighted works, it will likely be forced to shut down altogether.
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