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Tuesday, 30 October, 2001, 08:01 GMT
Napster 'to re-launch in 2002'
Online music user
Napster's return has been put off repeatedly
The return of online music service Napster has been delayed again, its chief executive has said.

The embattled internet music distribution service will not now return to full operation until the first quarter of 2002, Konrad Hilbers told a technology conference in Los Angeles on Monday.

It doesn't hurt Napster if they come in later

Phil Leigh, analyst
Mr Hilbers blamed record companies for the failure to agree terms for the use of their music online.

"The biggest hurdle Napster faces is obtaining this content," he said.

Automatic access

Mr Hilbers said that if music majors continued to block access to the repertoire, Congress should consider "compulsory licensing".

This is the system used by radio and TV stations which allows automatic access to copyright music - along with an obligation to pay record companies and music publishers.

Online music user
Napster has been an expensive purchase for Bertelsmann
Whenever Napster does come back online, Mr Hilbers promised that it would use technology that prevents unlimited copying and free distribution of music files.

Napster, which had more than 60 million users when it ran a free music-swapping service, has been all but shut down since March as a result of a court order to stop access to copyrighted music.

In response to a series of suits by record companies and music publishers, San Francisco Federal Judge Marilyn Hall Patel ruled that Napster enables users to engage in wholesale copyright infringement.

Cash infusions

Napster now only offers a limited number of authorised downloads and no file-swapping service.

Some analysts doubt whether Napster, which has required substantial cash infusions from its owner Bertelsmann, will ever recover its supremacy in the online music market.

But a recent survey showed that the site remained Europe's number one music destination - despite its problems.

And analyst Phil Leigh, of Raymond James and Associates, has said that even if Napster remains on hold until early 2002 it could possibly time its re-emergence successfully.

Leigh said the music majors' own planned online operations - Music Net and Pressplay - could serve to build the market for online music, to Napsters' benefit.

"It doesn't hurt Napster if they come in later when the offering becomes more attractive," said Mr Leigh.

See also:

29 Oct 01 | New Media
File-swapping 'halves' in Europe
25 Oct 01 | New Media
Napster cuts jobs to survive
10 Oct 01 | Business
Napster 'successors' emerge
20 Jul 01 | Business
Napster use slumps 65%
12 Jun 01 | Business
EU opens online music probe
06 Jun 01 | Business
Victory for music giants?
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