The final curtain has not yet fallen on Napster, but the American music industry is already claiming victory...

NAPSTER’s future still hangs in the balance tonight (February 10) after a judge in CALIFORNIA appeals court ordered the injunction served on the website had to be narrowed down before final judgement will be passed.

But US record companies are already declaring themselves the victors in the landmark case after the Court indicated that a good case for copyright infringement had been made.

The Recording Industry of America Association has issued a statement from president Hilary Rosen saying: “This is a clear victory. The court of appeals found that the injunction is not only warranted, but required. And it ruled in our favour in every legal issue presented.”

According to reports from the US, in a complicated three-page ruling, the Judge in the 9th Federal Court Of Appeals in San Francisco said that the injunction raised against the file-sharing software provider – whose user figures are reported to have rocketed over the weekend as the deadline closed in – was “over-broad” and must be narrowed down.

But it looks likely that the end of this free file-sharing system is nigh.

Last July, a court issued an injunction against Napster, saying it was guilty of “wholesale” copyright infringement by allowing users to download MP3 files of copyrighted songs for free.

However, Napster were allowed to stay in operation while a panel of three judges reviewed the arguments from both Napster representatives and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), a banner organisation representing many major record labels including, amongst others Sony, Universal and Warner Brothers, who are making the claim.

Since the initial trial last year, Napster has formed a series of bonds with record labels, including music giant BMG and the independent labels TVT and Edel Music. Both are hoping Napster will become a subscription service, whereby users pay a small fee, which is then paid to copyright holders.

The BBC reports that thousands of music fans have been logging on to Napster over the weekend ahead of the ruling. They claim that 10,000 people logged onto each of Napster’s 100 servers yesterday (February 11), sharing almost two million MP3 files.

It is not yet clear when a final ruling will be made on Napster’s future.