After all, the judge has already decided in the RIAA's favor.
Or so it would seem. On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Marilyn Patel, fast becoming the Judge Jackson of free music, declared Napster "enjoined from causing, assisting, facilitating, copying, or otherwise distributing all copyrighted songs or musical compositions."
Which pretty much covers Napster's business model, and which should surprise no one. Despite the spindly legal leg on which the company stands these days that it just sits there while other people may or may not break the law it's pretty intuitive that their business is the free distribution of a product lawfully controlled (not to mention heavily invested in) by record companies.
As Patel said, rather angrily, "If you design a site designed to enable infringement, you can't stand by and claim you don't know what's going on."
Fair enough. But what about innocent until proven guilty? Although Napster has appealed to a three-judge panel to have Patel's order stayed, traffic to Napster.com hit record highs in the wake of Patel's decision, as groove-moochers everywhere scramble to grab whatever they can drag and drop before the order takes effect at 3 p.m. Saturday.
And then they'll just go elsewhere. Gnutella, Freenet, Scour Exchange, iMesh and CuteMX are all ready to catch Napster's disappointed fans. One service, Audiofind, responded to news of the imminent shutdown by posting the message "BYE BYE NAPSTER!!" on its web site.
Some advice to the field: If you want to be a functioning outlaw, try to stay out of first place. The RIAA lawyers tend to work from the top of the list on down.