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Napster tries to talk its way out of RIAA suit

VC backer urging out-of-court settlement with music biz

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Napster is busily engaged in lawsuit settlement negotiations with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), according to talks participants cited by the Wall Street Journal.

Surprise, surprise. Napster really can't afford to be taken to the cleaners by the world's major recording companies. While it once might have favoured an MP3 martyr's 'go down in flames fighting the corporate greedheads' fate, since VC company Hummer Winblad Venture Partners pumped $15 million into the software operation and gave it a new CEO, a more measured, business-friendly outcome is likely.

A possible scenario? That Napster tracks labels' catalogues and pays a royalty accordingly, a process not dissimilar to that used by radio stations. The fees would be funded by advertising or subscription fees, probably the former since Napster success depends on making it as easy as possible to access.

Certainly Napster needs to come up with something pronto. The RIAA has already launched an attempt to get the software company's MP3-sharing service temporarily banned, pending the outcome of the copyright infringement trial, due to commence next month.

Napster has already signed up David Boies, the legal eagle who helped the US Department of Justice beat Microsoft, and for all his interest in the Net-related copyright issues the case has raised, we can't see him doing this on a 'no win, no fee' basis, somehow. ®

  • We should point out that our very own Pete Sherriff was recently thrown off the Napster service at the behest of Metallica. An odd action, he thought, since all he'd ever used the service for was to download a single Frank Zappa track. Serves him right for being an unrepentant old hippie, you might think, but it also makes you wonder about the other 300-odd thousand alleged 'Metallica Pirates'...

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