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Thursday, 10 January, 2002, 14:48 GMT
Napster tests legal song-swap service
Napster
Internet music service Napster has launched a version of its new, legal service.

The long-awaited relaunch of the file-swapping service offers only a beta, or test, version to a selected group of 20,000 users.

The beta version includes more than 100,000 music files - but does not include any major- label content.

Napster, which at its height had tens of millions of users, has been closed since July 2001 following a US District Court injunction in favour of music companies suing the service for copyright infringement.

Shawn Fanning
Fanning: Says 98% of Napster code rewritten
The launch date for the full Napster service has now been pushed back to March 2002, according to chief executive Konrad Hilbers.

Mr Hilbers said he still expected to sign licensing deals with the major music companies - allowing their songs on the service.

"We don't feel total resistance from any of the majors," he said.

But he also said the full version would not relaunch unless it had some major label music to offer.

The beta testers were chosen at random from millions of users who offered their services.

No limit

The beta test would be free, but the relaunched Napster would cost between $5 (3.46) and $10 (6.92) a month, Mr Hilbers said.

Users would be allowed 50 downloads per month - with no limit on the total number of downloaded files the user could have at any one time.

The new service will also will offer two types of files - standard MP3 music files and "nap" files, which are MP3s with the addition of a protective layer that prevents them being copied off the host computer or burned onto CDs.

Napster founder Shawn Fanning has also said that said 98% of the code behind the programme has been rewritten, adding a music player, chat rooms and instant messaging to the service

And there will be a "buy" button allowing users to click on a song and buy the related album from music retail site CDNow.

CDNow, like Napster, is owned by the Bertelsmann group - which also owns the music major BMG.

See also:

07 Jan 02 | New Media
Music industry mulls digital future
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