The Recording Industry of America (RIAA) won the first round of its legal battle with Napster yesterday.

Judge Marilyn Hall Patel issued court orders forbidding the exchange or use of music companies' copyrighted material by Napster or Napster users. She said using MP3 files, assisting in people using the files, and copying the files that the plaintiffs hold rights to is illegal.

Friday deadline Napster will have to stop posting copyrighted material on its Web site by Friday, she ruled. Throughout the hearing, Napster insisted that the identification of material in relation to a specific copyright holder was impossible. In case of possible compensation due to Napster, Patel ordered the music companies to pay a $5 million bond.

The judge said the number of MP3 files already downloaded from Napster's site, with the number of current Napster users presented a significant enough threat of irreparable harm to the music companies. She added that she felt that it was time for an injunction at this point.

Patel cited as evidence for her decision estimates that as much as 87 per cent of the material on Napster's site may be copyrighted as well as the music distribution companies’ predictions that it might have as many as 70 million users by the end of 2000.

MP3 creators Napster suggested that technology companies responsible for creating MP3 in the first place should be taken to task, as part of its defence. Napster had taken advantage of the available technology, the company's lawyers said. "It's hard sometimes to make a neat fit," Patel said in relation to Napster's line of defence.

However, the judge said that Napster hadn't tried as hard as it could to identify people pirating material. More damning, in her opinion, was the company's provision of software and a search engine as a means to enable music distribution, she added.

"It's kind of like becoming an orphan by your own hand and then asking the court for help," Patel said. She pointed to Napster memos that showed the company was keen to make money off of its music distribution site from the start of its operations.