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Master Napster: The Tutorial

User Bans and Getting Un-banned
Posted by the supreme webly | 12.5.2000

If you download enough music using Napster, the odds are pretty good that you'll eventually discover you've been banned from using the service by Napster. One day you'll wake up, try to connect and get a polite message informing you that you've been disqualified. From then on, if you play by the rules, you'll be unable to connect to Napster using your old account.

This is Napster's official answer to the copyright problem.

Despite everything you'll see on Napster, the company's official policy is that unauthorized use of copyrighted material will not be tolerated. The way this policy works is simple. The artist in question registers an official complaint with Napster. The company then checks to see who has the recordings in question. A switch is flicked (metaphorically speaking) and if you're one the people with the track on your hard drive - ouch - you're gone.

The most notorious example of a ban of course, is the Metallica incident. Not long ago hundreds of thousands of people were given the boot after the group discovered how much of their material was being distributed. The political fallout the band faced from fans after making this decision is probably the reason many artists choose not to take action against Napster users.

There are also rumors that Napster uses this punishment to stop certain behavior in the forums. Posting information that tells other other Napster users how to alter the Napster client or using an unauthorized bot to search many servers at once is allegedly grounds for expulsion. We have no evidence either way that these rumors are founded or unfounded.

If you're a heavy Napster user and don't want to get kicked, it's probably a good idea to keep track of the artists who are banning people. Word of a ban circulates fairly quickly on the Napster forums. Several people also maintain lists of artists who are banning people.

Of course, there's always a chance you'll get hit anyway, any precautions you may take will be meaningless if a new artist suddenly decides to take action against people who are snagging their music - and you happen to be one those people.

Getting Un-Banned
No technology is completely infallible. It didn't take long after Napster announced the first large scale user ban for some clever, technically-minded people to come up with ways around the problem.

Most of the solutions are simple "patches" which let you trick Napster into thinking you are somebody else, allowing you to make your triumphant return to the service regardless of your status. Installation of these patches is usually fairly easy. But be warned: in order to set up most you'll probably have to change lines of code manually. If the idea of doing this sort of thing by yourself freaks you out, you'll either have to find somebody more competent to do it for you or find another solution.

Naturally, Napster's official policy is that patches are a no no.

Another thing worth mentioning: Do not install a patch if you have any doubts about the legitimacy of the source. It's a sad fact of life these days that there are plenty of people out there who are more than willing to take advantage of less technically knowledgeable people.

If your not a techie, code you do not understand can do many things: many of which are unpleasant. You definitely do not want to make changes to your system that might allow a malicious person to give themselves access to your computer or trigger a destructive MP3 eating virus.

Next up: Napster in the workplace - A tricky situation

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