Judge Orders Napster Case To Press On

A District Court judge on Friday denied a request by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and music publishers for a summary judgment in the copyright-infringement case they brought ag

A District Court judge on Friday denied a request by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and music publishers for a summary judgment in the copyright-infringement case they brought against file-swapping service Napster. Judge Marilyn Hall Patel instead ruled -- in an apparent victory for Napster -- that further discovery is needed in the case, which is being heard in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Napster says the major labels have failed to prove ownership of many of the copyrights they allege were violated, contending that the plaintiffs must prove the songs were "works made for hire" or were assigned to the labels. Patel has ordered a "special master" to review the plaintiffs' documentation on the copyrights they claim to control.

Additionally, Napster says the major labels have engaged in "copyright misuse." Napster claims that Pressplay and MusicNet -- the latter of which it has a licensing deal with -- employ numerous anti-competitive practices, all currently under investigation by the Department of Justice.

The RIAA filed the summary-judgment motion last August, apparently in an attempt to avoid a trial. The organization claimed that Napster was liable for willfully violating copyrights. In turn, Napster asked the court to further investigate label practices.

"Napster's allegations of misuse are without merit, as the discovery ordered by the court will confirm," RIAA senior executive VP/general counsel Cary Sherman said in a statement. A "status conference" on the case is scheduled for March 27.