Unable to keep a good thing down: Napster is back up and running — this time in beta form. Close to 20,000 volunteers are beginning to access some 110,000 tracks available on the new Napster service for $5 or $10 a month, for 50 downloads. The catch: The available tracks are only from indie labels because Napster has yet to strike deals with the Big 5. (The major labels are still suing Napster for copyright infringement. Coincidentally, Federal Judge Marilyn Hall Patel has agreed to a one-month delay in the lawsuit, an indication that a settlement is close at hand. Stay tuned.) Unlike other services that launched in late December, the beta version allows the downloaded music to be burned to CD or transferred to a portable player. Previously, Napster had agreed to license the MusicNet service (EMI, BMG, Warner Bros. and RealNetworks), but has changed its mind. According to Napster CEO Konrad Hilbers: “Why run their system when we have our own?”
In other online news, Listen.com has beefed up its own music download service Rhapsody, signing non-exclusive agreements with EMI and BMG (ironically, the same companies that are running their own service, MusicNet). This agreement came soon after Listen.com announced that they have reached a publishing rights agreement with The Harry Fox Agency, the licensing arm of the National Music Publishers' Association.
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