It could be as early as June...

NAPSTER’s 57 million users could find themselves coughing up to use the file-swapping technology as early as June, according to latest reports.

As reported on NME.COM last October, when Napster and BMG announced that they were to work together to develop file-sharing technology, they also revealed that membership charges would be introduced for users and revenue used to pay copyright holders, recording artists and publishers.

Now, according to the BBC, Napster chairman Hank Barry said last weekend at a business conference in Davos that it could come into play as early as June, though no date has yet been fixed, nor has the size and scope of the membership fee been determined. He also confirmed that royalties will be paid.

Last October BMG said it had “developed a new business model for a secure membership-based service that will provide Napster community members with high quality file-sharing that preserves the Napster experience while at the same time providing payments to rights-holders, including recording artists, songwriters, recording companies and music publishers.”

Thomas Middelhoff, BMG’s Chairman and Chief Executive

Officer, added that the “new way of music distribution” would form the basis of “important and exciting new business models for the future of the music industry,” and urged other industry members and publishing companies to follow their lead.

Since the BMG truce, allegiances have been forged with labels Edel, home to Chicane and Aaron Carter, and TVT, whose roster includes Snoop Dogg’s Doggy’s Angels, XTC and Nothingface.

Last week BMG-signed The Dave Matthews Band announced that their new single ‘I Did It’, from their fourth studio album ‘Everyday’, will be released and promoted through Napster and made available as a good quality download before the album is available in shops in the US on its scheduled February 27 release date.

However, despite the growing goodwill between labels and Napster, Warner, Sony, Universal and EMI are among those pursuing court cases against them and the issue of paying royalties each time a song remains to be resolved, according to press reports in the US last week.