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Tuesday, 8 January, 2002, 13:25 GMT
Napster demands music access
Napster
The head of online music service Napster has called on the US government to force recording companies to grant access to their catalogues.

Napster chief executive Konrad Hilbers told a gathering of industry delegates at the Future of Music conference, in Washington DC, that Congress should consider establishing a mandatory per-song rate which services such as Napster could pay recording companies.


Listen.com's aim is to build Rhapsody into a service that will eventually offer access to all music

Sean Ryan, Listen.com
At present, internet music services have to agree individual licensing deals with recording companies for access to their catalogues of artists.

On Tuesday Listen.com announced a licensing deal with EMI and BMG for access to their catalogues of recorded material.

Compulsory rates

"If no agreement between rights holders and new, independent distribution initiatives can be achieved in the short term, Congress will have little choice but to consider the compulsory licensing of sound recordings," Hilbers said.


We must obtain major-label content, and this remains our greatest obstacle

Konrad Hilbers, Napster
Compulsory rates, used by radio stations to compensate songwriters, are often opposed by recording companies who would prefer to negotiate individually.

Napster has been out of action since last year when a court order closed the site down, concluding a mammoth legal battle between the service and record companies.

Since then the site has been working to re-establish itself as a legitimate paid-for service and is expected to relaunch this year.

Exchange songs

Mr Hilbers offered little detail on how the revamped Napster will work, but he did say it would compensate artists whose songs were downloaded if they so wished, and that users would face some restrictions.

Pressplay
Pressplay is backed by major labels
The new Napster will allow users to exchange songs with each other but they will be prevented from transferring songs to portable MP3 devices.

The company is yet to reach a licensing agreement with five of the biggest record lavels, who between them control 80% of all recorded music.

"We must obtain major-label content, and this remains our greatest obstacle," Hilbers said.

Slow

Two legitimate services, Pressplay and MusicNet, backed by the big five companies have launched in recent months but have yet to make much of an impact on the market.

Listen.com launched its service called Rhapsody in early December but its content has been limited to music from independent labels.

The major record companies have been slow to license content to services competing with their own platforms, MusicNet and Pressplay.

"Listen.com's aim is to build Rhapsody into a service that will eventually offer access to all music," said Sean Ryan, the firm's president and chief executive.

See also:

07 Jan 02 | New Media
Music industry mulls digital future
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