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Thursday, 7 June, 2001, 10:51 GMT 11:51 UK
Rival knocks Napster deal
MP3.com web
MP3's boss insists Napster's deal with MusicNet is unworkable
Duet, the alternative internet music system that hopes customers will pay to download sound, has criticised a deal between its rival MusicNet and the online song-swapping service Napster.


You have Napster with no technology, licensing from MusicNet, another company with no technology and no products.

Michael Robertson
MP3.com
The deal, which aims to make Napster a distributor for MusicNet, is unviable according to the boss of one of the companies that make up Duet.

"You have Napster with no technology, licensing from MusicNet, another company with no technology and no products," said Michael Robertson, founder and president of MP3.com.

MP3.com is Napster's equivalent in the Duet venture which also includes media giants Sony and Vivendi Universal.

However, beyond being a joint venture of AOL Time Warner, Bertelsmann and EMI, MusicNet also involves RealNetworks, a company with technology that enables users to download and listen to music.

Intellectual property rights

But this is not simply a question about technology.


Content will not be available to Napster as part of the MusicNet service until we are reasonably satisfied that Napster is operating in a legal, non-infringing manner.

Warner Music
At issue are matters that are at least as tricky, namely intellectual property rights and complicated music licensing agreements.

In a bizarre twist of events, the major record companies are now partnering with their former adversaries whom they used to meet only in court.

Both MP3.com, Napster and Duet have had to fight major record labels in US courts before the music industry has decided to join them instead of beating them.

Napster's future

However, the battles are not over yet: The focus is on the outcome of a "compliance hearing" that will determine whether Napster has complied with a judge's order to block the swapping of copyrighted music using its software.

Time Warner's music arm Warner Music insisted its "content will not be available to Napster as part of the MusicNet service until we are reasonably satisfied that Napster is operating in a legal, non-infringing manner".

And even when the technical and the main legal arguments have been resolved between the partners that make up Duet and MusicNet, several issues relating to the clearance of copyrights with song writers and publishers remain.

"This is a bunch of hand waving at the moment," said MP3.com's Mr Robertson.

"There really is tremendous pressure on the industry as a whole to roll out one consumer-enticing product."

"This industry has been notorious about announcing initiatives that never see the light of day."

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