A preliminary injunction has been issued against the file-swapping service Napster in a case brought by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

The judge presiding over the case has ordered Napster to remove all of the plaintiffs' copyrighted music from its service by midnight on Friday, including artists from the "Big Five" labels.

Industry watchers are speculating whether the music-sharing site will be able to handle the extra traffic today and tomorrow as visitors take their final opportunity to scramble for their favourite tracks.

The writing appears to be on the wall for the fledgling file-swapping pioneer. Judge Patel concluded with the ominous warning that the plaintiff had "not just reasonable likelihood of success (in a trial) but strong likelihood of success."

When Napster lawyers protested that the technological challenges involved with removing the copyrighted work (estimated to comprise around 80% of the content on the site) Judge Patel responded with the following slap: "That's the system that's been created and you're stuck with the consequences."

In just eleven months Napster has attracted 20 million users with no zero marketing budget. Responding to the ruling this morning Napster attorney David Boies said that unless yesterday’s decision is overturned, "Napster's service is obviously going to be very, very curtailed and perhaps eliminated entirely."