Consumers back Napster

A poll of nearly 1600 home Internet users has come down on the side of Napster rather than the Recording Industry Association of America.

          The law is the law, but that doesn't mean that you have to agree with it.

          That, at least, is the result of a poll of nearly 1600 home Internet users when it comes to Napster versus the Recording Industry Association of America, according to analysis firm PC Data.

          Only 16% of those polled agree with the RIAA, the leading recording industry trade association, and its stance that Napster's popular online music sharing service should be shut down, according to poll results released Thursday. By contrast, 45% of those surveyed disagree with the RIAA's position. Another 39% have no opinion on the issue.

          The survey's results come on the heels of Wednesday's court order that Napster must halt its practices of helping consumers share copyrighted music that they have not paid for. US District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel, ruling in the Northern District of California, ordered Napster to shut down its Web site by midnight last Friday.

          Napster appealed the decision and was granted a stay of the injunction until it can file a further brief on August 18.

          Is Online Copyright Unachievable?

          Interestingly, the majority of home users--nearly 60%--think the record industry's attempt to defend its copyrights is admirable, but consider it an unrealistic stance in a digital world. In fact, fully half believe free exchange of music on the Internet should be legal, according to PC Data's data.

          Napster's service provides a central directory of MP3 files, which are compressed digital music files that are not quite CD-quality but which have garnered wild acceptance among younger Web denizens such as teenagers and college students. Through Napster, users can locate and download the songs they want that are located on other users' computers.

          However, because recording companies and artists are not paid for those downloads, companies providing a means for obtaining MP3 files have found themselves embroiled in lawsuits filed by the RIAA and musical groups. Besides Napster, MP3.com and MP3Board face legal sanctions. MP3 is changing its practices and cutting deals with the various record companies.

          Ironically, almost 60% of those polled believe that Napster's activities actually help the music industry by exposing consumers to music they are likely to buy. This is one of Napster's key arguments in its defense. And, while downloading of music for listening is on the rise, only 29 percent say they typically listen to music downloaded on their PCs; 84% say they still buy music in stores on CDs.

          PC Data's survey sample is drawn from the firm's panel of more than 120,000 home Internet users.

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