NAPSTER NETS 20 MILLION USERS

The legal battles the MP3 file-swapping application is experiencing has done nothing to halt its popularity...

The ongoing problems experienced by MP3 file-swapping application Napster seem to have done little to dent the Internet company’s popularity.

It was announced on Wednesday (July 19) that users of the application now exceed 20 million – and that figure alone is double what it was only three months ago.

The company has been established for a little over a year. In November 1999 they recorded their millionth user, and since then ongoing battles between the company and some of the world’s biggest bands over copyright issues have kept the Napster name in almost daily news headlines.

The implications of MP3 music file-swapping, a service that Napster essentially brought to world attention, was even debated recently in US congressional hearings. In an official statement, the company were keen to point out that the huge leap in availability of music to users of their service was not, as has been suggested, damaging record sales.

“The powerful combination of great technology and the appeal of sharing files with other music lovers has attracted an amazing community of people,” said Milton Olin, Napster‘s Chief Operating Officer. “The wide range of musical styles being shared, from the most popular to the most obscure, demonstrates the diversity of the Napster community. It’s no wonder that CD sales are rising — Americans love music. Napster helps cultivate, broaden and deepen our users’ affection for music.”

The first real test of Napster‘s position comes next week when they go into a San Francisco court against the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The RIAA brought the case in December 1999 on behalf of several major record labels including Universal, Sony, Warner Brothers and BMG, alleging copyright infringement and music piracy.

Whatever the outcome it is sure to have ramifications in the lawsuit Metallica (who branded Napster “looters”) have brought against the company. They have been very vocal in their accusations of copyright infringement and made clear their intention to close the company down. The case is not due to come to court for several months.