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The legal battle gained serious steam this week when the RIAA filed a preliminary injunction against Napster, citing damaging surveys and revealing, perhaps incriminating, e-mails between company officials. The trade organization asked the judge to block all major-label content from being traded through the service.
NAPSTER INKS LIGIT LABEL,
ARTIST DEALS
Moves Are Still Overshadowed By E-mail Exchanges Between Company Officials
Perhaps in response to increased pressure from the Recording Industry Association of America, Napster said Thursday it plans to forge a series of relationships with unsigned artists and independent labels.

Until now, Napster's apparent sole purpose was to provide an online service in which users could trade libraries of digital music files among themselves.

The major labels through the RIAA, a few independent record companies and a couple of artists have all sued Napster for copyright infringement.

The legal battle gained serious steam this week when the RIAA filed a preliminary injunction against Napster, citing damaging surveys and revealing, perhaps incriminating, e-mails between company officials. The trade organization asked the judge to block all major-label content from being traded through the service (hitsdailydouble.com, 6/13).

On Thursday (6/15), Napster responded by signing a promotional and marketing agreement with independent rap label 75 Ark Entertainment, home to such acts as The Automator and the Anti Pop Consortium. Napster plans to make free downloads available of unreleased tracks by the label's artists, CNET reports.

The controversial file-swapping entity has also started what it calls the New Artist Program, which allows unsigned artists to make their music available to Napster users.

"Napster's own documents reveal that their only interest in the unknown artist is to distract the RIAA," the trade group said in a statement, reacting cynically to Napster's latest move. "In fact, early Napster promotional material touted Napster as ‘the place to go to get away from unknown artists.'"

Napster's VP of Marketing Liz Brooks denies the moves are any kind of fallback position associated with the copyright infringement suit. "They demonstrate our promotional marketing muscle that allows a passionate community of 10 million music lovers to hear music they wouldn't have heard before," Brooks told Reuters. Since late May, Napster claims that it has signed up 14,000 artists to the program.

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