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Napster is saved -- for now

Plus, Olympics earn historically low ratings, Playboy steps into the reality show fray, and more

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Shawn Fanning
Fanning: Dan Krauss/AP

WEB NEWS Things are looking up for Napster. Yesterday, a three judge federal appeals court decided to allow the file swapping service to stay online pending further deliberations. The Recording Industry Association of America had asked the court to lift a stay on Judge Marilyn Hall Patel’s ruling to ban Napster, which has now amassed some 30 million users. But the appeals court judges not only took no immediate action against the Internet company, they appeared to be critical of the RIAA’s case. ”The judges seemed to need more information from the recording industry and were more antagonistic to the RIAA. They don’t really seem satisfied with the status quo,” Leonard Rubin, a copyright expert and lawyer who observed the proceedings, told Reuters. While the case is pending, many think there might still be a possibility for a settlement. ”Napster has a lot of opportunity to make a business proposition that makes sense,” said RIAA chief Hilary Rosen…. Meanwhile, a bill has been introduced in Congress that would protect services like MyMP3.com — which allows CD owners to listen to their collections online — from the recording industry. Rosen and other industry execs aren’t very happy about that. ”This legislation is misguided as a matter of public policy and grossly unfair to creators,” they wrote in a letter sent to each member of Congress on Monday. Suddenly Congressmen and women started remembering all those groovy mix tapes they made in the ’70s.

RATINGS The Olympics closed with a whimper for NBC, leaving the net with the lowest rated 17 day average for summer games coverage since Mexico City 1968. Still, the Peacock managed to rake in the dough. The net, which had expected to sell some $780 million in ad time, actually sold a record $900 million. Of course, they had promised their clients at least a 16.1 rating during prime time evening coverage, and they averaged only a 14.8. Even the glitzy closing ceremony only scored a 10.9/17 share. If only they handed out the gold medals for marketing ploys.

REALITY TV Playboy is getting real. The company has been hawking three bunny filled reality programs at the Mipcom TV trade shows, according to Variety. ”Playboy’s Road Rally” is pitched as a ”Road Rules” meets ”Survivor” (meets Playmate of the month) tour de force. ”Funhouse” puts ”Big Brother” like cameras on two men and three women as they frolic in a Malibu residence. And finally, ”Sexy Urban Legends” focuses on erotic encounters in public places. ”We have always been at the forefront of voyeur television, but given the success of reality concepts like ‘Millionaire’ and ‘Survivor,’ we’re now taking it to the next level,” Andrea McBurnett, Playboy’s VP of programming told Daily Variety. All hail the kings of cutting edge soft porn.

UNION We know what Bridgette Wilson did last weekend. The 26 year old actress wed tennis star Pete Sampras in Beverly Hills. It was reportedly a traditional Greek ceremony — plate smashing compris. Wilson, who appeared in ”I Know What You Did Last Summer” and ”House on Haunted Hill” has a regular role on Darren Star’s new TV show ”The Street.”

CASTING Harrison Ford may get his next $20 million paycheck for playing a captain in the sub flick ”K-19,” reports Variety. The film is a contemporary drama about a crew’s attempts to keep the booty on their vessel from nuclear meltdown. And they say there’s no market for international news in America!

MUSIC TV Gene Simmons may exec produce a VH1 sitcom. The Kiss bassist has been tapped to helm the pilot episode of ”Smash,” a show that centers around the adventures of a has been hip hop artist named Phat Boy, according to Variety…. Beck will be making an appearance on an upcoming episode of ”Futurama.” He has already taped the voice over, but there is no word as yet on when the animated show will air. The once indie singer – songwriter was at first very reluctant to do the show, according to MTV.com. Producers managed to persuade him after he turned them down once. This presumably means there will be no Beckorama T-shirts or coffee mugs.

LEGALESE ”Cheers” actors George Wendt and John Ratzenberger will be allowed to sue Paramount Pictures after all. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to derail the actors’ attempt to sue the studio over the use of their likenesses. Paramount had granted a company the right to use the ”Cheers” characters for robots in airport bars around the world and had tried to stop the lawsuit by appealing to the Supreme Court in the hopes that federal copyright law would trump California publicity law. This is good news for all those who dreaded a bleary eyed encounter with Norm and Cliff robots en route to Los Angeles.