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Napster Wins Reprieve From Court-Ordered Shutdown

By Christopher Stern and David Segal

A federal appeals court yesterday granted Napster Inc. a temporary reprieve in its legal battle with the recording industry, allowing the popular music-sharing Internet service to continue operating through at least mid-September.

The emergency stay granted by the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals gives Napster's lawyers time to appeal a court injunction issued Wednesday that would have forced Napster to shut down by midnight yesterday.

The appeals court action came two days after District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel ordered Napster to halt its operations, saying she found "overwhelming" evidence that the Napster site was created to allow music lovers to duplicate copyrighted works. Patel's blunt and rapid ruling convinced many that the case, and Napster's fate, had been effectively decided.

Yesterday's emergency stay issued by a two-judge panel indicated otherwise. The appeals judges said "substantial questions" had been raised about the "merits and form of the injunction."

Napster allows users to search and swap songs that have been stored on individual computers around the world. The Web site effectively creates a single database of music from all the users who happen to be logged on at the same time.

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