Napster’s legal team has filed a brief objecting to Judge Marilyn Hall Patel’s injunction against it.

The judge’s decision against Napster potentially forces Napster to remove all music by artists represented by labels that are members of the Recording Industry Association of America. Napster appealed against this decision, and won a temporary stay of execution for the duration of the appeal. The newly filed brief is part of the company's attempt to place the legal validity of the system it uses beyond question. Central to this is the technology used - namely non-commercial peer-to-peer file sharing of copyrighted and/or not copyrighted material.

In defence of technology

Napster has several objections to the judge's ruling, claiming it would be impossible to comply with the judge's order to remove the designated, copyrighted files. The architecture of the Napster model makes identifying copyrighted and uncopyrighted material extremely difficult, the company claims.

Napster's lawyers also argue that Judge Patel did not adequately consider past legal precedents applicable to the case and that Patel underestimated the impact of peer-to-peer file sharing in the Internet marketplace.

"Napster cannot comply with the District Court's order as drafted and continue to operate its peer-to-peer system. More generally, if the decision of the District Court is permitted to stand, every new technology used to transmit, route or exchange data subject to the laws using the Internet - and many existing technologies - will be affected," the Napster brief said.

Technological redesign

The brief claims that the District Court's earlier injunction would force Napster to redesign its technology, depriving Napster users of the peer-to-peer technology. Napster also declared that 98 per cent of the music on the site does not belong to the plaintiffs and that altering its technology to accommodate the plaintiffs would disrupt the model of business Napster currently conducts.

"File names often do not distinctly identify the artist, the song, the title, or whether the music is from a CD (in which the plaintiff's recording companies may own the rights) or a recording of a live concert (which many artists allow to be freely circulated widely and in various media for promotional reasons)," the Napster brief stated.

Weak defence

Leonard Rubin, intellectual property lawyer at Gordon & Glickson, said that Judge Patel's request to distinguish between copyrighted and non-copyrighted titles traditionally holds a fair amount of merit in similar types of cases. He noted that Napster's defence on these grounds may only stand if the company shows that the effect of altering the technology would be devastating to a large segment of society. He said the company would need to demonstrate that changing the technology - which Napster created - would be unfair to the public sector.

"It seems that it is a weak point to raise," Rubin said.

The defendants claim that when the rock band Metallica - a well-publicized objector to Napster - attempted to identify copyrighted songs earlier this year, the group mislabelled tens of thousands of authorized recordings as theft.

Reverse the decision, says Napster

In its brief, Napster called for the court to reverse the injunction issued last month and to issue a ruling that would more definitively address peer-to-peer technologies.

Napster also cited the Audio Home Recording Act (AHRA) which the company said clears all non-commercial consumer copying of music in digital or analogue form. Judge Patel relegated the AHRA precedent to a minor position in the proceedings because the RIAA had not brought claims under this act. Napster, however, said that this act applies to all copyright infringement suits, whether or not the parties involved cite the precedent.

"Napster respectfully requests that this Court reverse and vacate in its entirety the injunction issued by the District Court," the brief concluded.