NAPSTER RETURNS!

The music file service rolls out a limited new version six months after it was forced to close...

Underfire Internet music file service NAPSTER is set to roll out a limited version of their new service today (January 10) – six months after it was shut down by a Californian court for copyright infringement.

Napster will test a limited version of its new service on a select group of 20,000 users. Only 110,000 music files will be made available for download, though none of the content will be from major labels. The launch for the full version has been pushed back until the end of March 2002, said Napster CEO Konrad Hilbers.

Hilbers, while claiming he is expected to soon sign licensing deals with the major music companies in order to allow their songs on the service, sounded a closeted warning about the future of the system, saying a full service would not launch without major label music to offer.

When Napster does return, users, who numbered up to ten million per month until the July injunction against the company, will find a different service to the free for all of old. While still based on users copying music from one another’s computers, Napster’s new software, which has been designed again from scratch, will not allow users to find songs that are unauthorised for sharing. This is a major key to the new service. Napster’s inability to withdraw all unauthorised files previously available on their system led them into a head-on battle with the majors and inevitably brought their closure.

The relaunched version will cost between $5 (about £3.50) and $10 (£6.90) a month, the LA Times reports. Users would be able to download around 50 files per month, though more could be accessed for an increased fee. Two types of files will also be available – standard MP3 music files and “nap” files, which are MP3s with a protective layer that prevents them being burned onto CDs.

And in order to meet financial imperatives filtering through all parts of the music industry, Napster are planning to install a “buy” button allowing users to click on a song and buy the related album from music retail site CDNow.