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Free music fight: Napster battles to keep sharing music files

(CNN) -- It wasn't the day the music died, but a death sentence for Napster's version of free music swapping appears close at hand.

"We're disappointed with this ruling ... under this decision Napster could be shut down even before a trial on the merits," said Hank Berry, CEO of Napster.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Napster must police its more than 50 million users and stop them from sharing copyrighted material. This is a nearly impossible task for the company.

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CNN's Rusty Dornin reports on the ruling against Napster

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While the Appeals Court told a lower court to modify its injunction against Napster, it didn't overturn it. The recording industry called it a victory for all creators.

"A business model built on infringement is not only morally wrong but legally wrong -- and we're very gratified that the Ninth Circuit today agreed with us 100 percent," said Hillary Rosen of the Recording Industry Association of America.

For now, Napster is up and running. But some music analysts say when it comes to stopping copyright infringement, it's too little, too late.

"There are far too many applications that let people do what Napster does. Most of them are far more difficult to stop than Napster has been," said Ric Dube from, an online digital entertainment magazine.

Napster says it will continue to provide music. However, in the future, users will have to pay a fee for it. Napster founder Shawn Fanning, who recently made a deal with publishing giant Bertelsmann, claims his dream won't end with this ruling.

"We've been developing a Napster service that offers additional benefits to members of the community and importantly makes payments to artists," Fanning said. "I'm focused on building this better service and I hope to have it in place this year."

This service probably won't be realized before the injunction, however, which could come in a matter of days or weeks. Napster says it will appeal and possibly petition the Supreme Court. Until the order comes to shut down, millions of fans are likely to continue jamming the site, before Napster is silenced.

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Wired News
 • Good Gnus in Napster Ruling
 • Picking at the Bones of Napster
The Standard
 • Napster's Day of Reckoning
United States Courts for the Ninth Circuit
Business 2.0

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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