Songbird, the software brainchild of a 20-year-old Internet entrepreneur, was launched on Wednesday with song-swap company Napster firmly in its sights.
The technology, billed as the first offered to everyone as an Internet search tool, enables artists and musicians to track down who has done what with their compositions.
The software, invented by Utah-based Travis Hill, won the backing of the record industry’s IFPI watchdog and 10 organizations representing artists, songwriters and publishers.
Songbird was introduced at IFPI’s London headquarters.
“Songbird gives music copyright holders a completely new insight into how Napster is using their music and, if they want to, take steps to get it removed,” said IFPI Chairman Jay Berman.
“Songbird complements the efforts by U.S. right owners to enforce their rights and it fits with IFPI’s global anti-piracy strategy,” he added in a statement.
The new search tool, developed by Media Enforcer LLC to give smaller players and independents a chance to track their work on Napster, was being publicly offered on the www.iapu.org Internet site from Wednesday, the IFPI said.
Travis Hill, who turned his attention to on-line music technologies after 10 years training as a classical pianist, said: “We wrote this software to protect our own work and to help others to do the same.”
Songbird follows the release by Napster of its own software that can read “digital fingerprints.”
Napster, which announced it had licensed the technology from Virginia-based Relatable last month, said on its Web site it was adding the new feature to comply with a federal court order that bars the trading of copyrighted songs on its service.
Napster said the software reads sonic characteristics of song files and will help it stop users from downloading songs without record companies’ permission.
According to a Webnoize study released last week, Napster use fell by 36 percent in April.
Nevertheless, over a billion song files were traded on the service last month, leading the recording industry to complain that Napster’s efforts to comply with the San Francisco injunction issued on March 5 are inadequate.
As Napster has sought to block trading of these files, many users found ways around its screening mechanisms by tweaking file names.
Napster’s service attracted over 60 million users who swap songs for free by trading MP3 files, a compression format that turns music on compact discs into small digital files.
The world’s biggest record labels first sued Napster in December 1999, claiming it was a haven for copyright piracy that would cost them billions of dollars in lost music sales.
“Since we began blocking certain files, we have been progressively refining the system to both more accurately and more thoroughly block access to music files we have been asked to exclude,” Napster said in a message posted on its Web site.
A spokesman for the Recording Industry Association of America said: “We’re pleased that Napster is announcing more and more steps toward compliance with the injunction.”