SAN FRANCISCO — Online music retailer EMusic.com is set to deploy a new technology to identify its songs that are being traded online by Napster users and demand that the free-for-all stop.
EMusic announced Tuesday it will begin using “acoustic fingerprinting” to monitor the songs being shared on Napster that allegedly infringe on the rights of EMusic’s artist and label partners.
EMusic president and CEO Gene Hoffmann said Napster balked at other solutions to stem the unauthorized trade of music, leaving the online retailer no choice but to crack down on the song sharing.
“Over the past several months, EMusic has continually offered to work in good faith with Napster on this issue,” Hoffman said. “Napster’s unfortunate and inflexible response has been that EMusic’s only course of action is to request that offending users’ accounts be cut off completely.”
With the new technology, Napster users caught trading songs obtained from EMusic would receive an “instant message” on their computer screens warning them of copyright infringement and giving a 24-hour grace period to stop distributing the music.
“It seems Napster would rather shut down user accounts, than to deal directly with the problem of illegally distributed files,” Hoffman said.
Calls by The Associated Press to Napster seeking comment were not immediately returned.
In fact, Napster has been dealing with that very problem since its inception. Shortly after the song-sharing service launched last year, Napster was sued in federal court by major record labels for copyright infringement. That case is currently on appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court.
Napster reached a tentative deal with Bertelsmann’s BMG music division to develop what the partners characterized as a new, secure membership-based distribution system that will guarantee payments to artists. The deal hinges on Napster’s compliance to overhaul its service – a move that has yet to happen.
Napster claims to have 38 million registered users.
EMusic has licensing agreements with more than 600 independent record labels and popular artists such as Green Day, Goo Goo Dolls, Louis Armstrong and Kenny Rogers. EMusic allows sampling and purchases of music in the popular MP3 format.
Online music sales such as EMusic’s are still an unproven entity. When Hewlett-Packard Co. agreed to pay online music retailer Emusic.com Inc. $3 million in a cross-marketing deal, the sum exceeded the aggregate sales of all music downloads, according to Aram Sinnreich of Jupiter Research.
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