Napster to tap online music database

The Associated Press
Wednesday March 14, 2001



SAN FRANCISCO — Napster Inc., in its quest to appease the recording industry and block access to unauthorized songs, has signed an agreement with a company that maintains an online database with millions of song titles to help identify copyright material. 

Napster announced Tuesday it will lean on music catalog specialist Gracenote to help it weed out copyright music. Berkeley-based Gracenote catalogs music for online information access and software applications. 

Gracenote also catalogs the spelling variants that have proved troublesome for Napster as the song-swap service tries to comply with a federal court injunction to block the trading of unauthorized content. Gracenote’s database of song titles, including misspellings, is about 12 million and is based on user submissions. 

“We’ve been exploring a partnership with Gracenote for months and the ability to quickly enlist their support in our file-filtering efforts will greatly improve our effectiveness,” Napster CEO Hank Barry said in a statement. “We are leaving no stone unturned in our efforts to comply with the court’s injunction.” 

Gracenote normally provides its services as an added feature to desktop music playing software such as MusicMatch and Winamp, popping up artist and song titles on PCs when users insert an audio CD. 

“Our core business is really not helping peer-to-peer networks filter. But it was just a perfect fit,” Gracenote president David Hyman said. 

Although terms of the deal between the two online companies were not revealed, Hyman confirmed that Napster will have full access to Gracenote’s database of music information. 

“Personally, I feel like it’s a great moment in digital music,” Hyman said. “It’s part of the solution that keeps the Napster phenomenon alive.” 

Napster has struggled to comply with an injunction that requires it to block access to certain songs after receiving proper notice from the copyright holders.  

The Recording Industry Association of America, on behalf of its members, submitted 135,000 filenames to Napster last Friday to have them blocked from the file-sharing service. 

A Napster spokeswoman said the company actually received a total of 6 million filenames, including spelling variations, from the recording industry on Friday. That number represented 26,000 artist/song title pairs that Napster claims have been effectively blocked from its service. 

Napster is continually getting more submissions from the recording industry and the screening technology is an “ongoing process,” said Napster spokeswoman Tracy Malakar. 

The RIAA appeared unimpressed by Napster’s progress thus far. 

“We are not going to debate the fine points of the order’s implementation. We believe the court’s intent is clear. Napster is required to stop infringing. Stall tactics are unacceptable,” said RIAA spokeswoman Amy Weiss. 

Napster’s efforts have been slowed somewhat by the large number of misspellings and variants on song and artist names. Some Napster users even have resorted to Pig Latin to sneak their favorite tunes onto the service. 

Spelling variants of artists’ names — “MMetallica” or “etallicaMay,” for instance — have lessened the effectiveness of Napster’s week-old screening technology, the company said. 


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