The winds have changed: Instead of Napster continuing to be under the scrutiny of the law, U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel is now taking a different look at the record labels. In a mid-February hearing, Patel told lawyers that she will begin a discovery phase in the ongoing Napster trial, allowing the upcoming legal pay-for-play music service to examine whether or not the Big Five record labels have misused their copyright claims. Patel ruled that the Five must prove that they own the music copyrights, and prove that these copyrights weren't used to monopolize and stifle the distribution of music on the Internet. This ruling means that if the labels can't prove ownership, then they can't ask the courts for copyright infringement damages. The labels have three weeks to produce documentation to a third party who will advise Patel on copyright laws.
Despite this turn of events, online music services continue to expand, though this time in content form. As stated before, the life expectancy of these services was to be seen in audience acceptance. As such, numerous services, including AOL Music and Rhapsody, have added features to attract paying customers: AOL Music plans to entertain its audience by offering them a one-stop shop for news, downloads, live concerts, chats and the streaming subscription service. Likewise, Listen.com's Rhapsody hopes to add video on-demand later this spring.
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