NAPSTER RIP?

It looks all over as the company sacks its remaining staff ...

NAPSTER, the controversial file-sharing network that at one time looked set to bring the entire music industry to its knees, looks to have swapped its last song.

The company has fired its remaining 42 staff after a court refused to allow its sale to its main backer Bertelsmann.

After months teetering on the edge, Napster toppled yesterday (September 3) when Judge Peter J. Walsh in a Delaware bankruptcy court ruled that Bertelsmann couldn’t buy the company’s assets because Napster’s chief executive, Konrad Hilbers, had “divided loyalty” between the two companies, In effect, he was saying any such deal would have been an inside job.

Bertelsmann had sought to purchase the remains of the Napster network for an additional $8 million after having already sunk $85 million into the company.

Hilbers, the former head of Bertelsmann’s BMG record division, was brought in by Bertelsmann last year.

He said last night he disagreed with the judge’s decision, but it left him with no other choice but to resign and make the remaining 42 employees redundant.

Napster had been on its uppers for some time.

Company founder, 22-year-old Shawn Fanning, and another top executives are reported to have resigned in May amongst bitter internal feuding.

Hilbers himself was said to have walked from the company when he became exasperated over infighting between John Fanning, Shawn Fanning’s uncle, and Hank Berry, the former Napster chief executive and partner at venture capitalist group Hummer Winblad Venture Partners.

In April, they laid off 30 staff in a cost cutting measure, having got rid of another 16 last October and more in March.

Despite Napster’s previous might, they were hit by massive and costly copyright infringement suits for allowing users to copy music from computer to computer using their free software. They had been working to install an updated service that would require users to pay to swap songs.

On the Napster site now there is a simple drawing of a gravestone featuring the Napster cat logo and the epitaph “Ded [sic] Kitty”.