Napster Taken Down

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Napster Inc.’s song-sharing service went dark Monday as the company continued to upgrade the network to prepare for advanced music-identification tools and the pending launch of a revamped, fee-based system.

“File transfers have been temporarily suspended while Napster upgrades the databases that support our new file identification technology. Keep checking this space for updates. Thanks for your support!” read a message on Napster’s home page Monday.

The Redwood City-based company has been scrambling to comply with a federal court-issued injunction to keep unauthorized music offline.

Napster representatives didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment on the status of the system changes.

The company has begun playing hardball lately with its users, who have long traded MP3 file versions of popular music with little regard to copyright issues. The latest version of the Napster application, a forced upgrade to the system that doesn’t allow the use of previous versions, contains new filtering technology to identify song files

The result has been a drastic drop in the number of songs shared and the number of users sharing them.

On June 27, a snapshot of Napster activity revealed 320,000 users sharing an average of 1.5 songs each, a dramatic drop from an average 1.57 million users sharing 220 songs each at the peak of the service in February, according to researcher Webnoize.

The new fee-based Napster doesn’t have a specific launch date, but has been promised before summer’s end by German media giant Bertlesmann AG, Napster’s primary financial backer.

Copyright (c) 2001 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.