Report: Mediator appointed in Napster case

The beleaguered peer-to-peer music-trading site Napster and its court rivals, The RIAA, have met with a court-appointed mediator and have another meeting scheduled.

The beleaguered peer-to-peer music-trading site Napster and its court rivals, The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), have met with a court-appointed mediator and have another meeting scheduled, according to a report in next week's issue of Newsweek magazine.

In an attempt to reach an out-of-court settlement, Judge Marilyn H Patel appointed former federal judge Eugene Lynch as mediator for the two sides, Newsweek says.

The Ninth Circuit of the US Court of Appeals ruled on February 12 that Napster infringes on record company copyrights through the operation of its music file-trading service. The ruling, however, also directed that the Napster service be allowed to continue operations until some modifications are made to the original injunction.

The lawsuit against Napster was originally filed in December 1999, by the RIAA on behalf of the five major record labels -- BMG Entertainment, Warner Brothers Music Group, EMI Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group.

The February ruling found Napster guilty of two types of copyright infringement: contributory and vicarious. Contributory infringement is the act of aiding knowingly in the infringement of copyright. Vicarious infringement is the result of having the power to stop the infringement and failing to do so, as well as benefitting financially from the infringement.

Rather than calling for the immediate shut-down of Napster, the court stayed the injunction to keep the service running for the short term because it felt that the original injunction was "over broad." According to the court's ruling, the original injunction must be now be modified, so that Napster will only be ruled guilty of contributory infringement if it is given notice of specific copyrighted files on its systems and then chooses not to actively stop their spread. With these provisions, the company will be guilty of vicarious infringement only if it fails to act.

Napster has since announced its plans to move to a membership-based subscription service as soon as possible. Napster has been working for months with a subsidiary of Bertelsmann, called Digital World Services, to create a platform for the secure administration of transferred files within a peer-to-peer structure. In the new structure, Napster will be able to place restrictions on what can be done with transferred files, such as limits on the ability to burn music files onto CDs.

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