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Napster pay-to-share service coming in June

CEO keeps mum, but Bertelsmann boss spills the beans

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Napster CEO Hank Barry yesterday reiterated the company's Bertelsmann-sponsored move to charge users a subscription fee. At the same time, Bertelsmann bosses said the fee-based service is set to launch this summer.

Hovering around the World Economic Forum in Davros, Bertelsmann CEO Thomas Middelhoff said: "I'm convinced we can introduce in June or July of this year a subscription model - with a real working digital rights management system."

He'll need to if he's to convince Bertelsmann Music Group's fellow 'big five' global recording companies that Napster's music sharing system can be turned from a threat to an opportunity.

Not only does that mean preventing copyright infringement - hence Middelhoff's reference to a digital rights management system - but proving that users will by and large be happy paying for something they're used to getting for free.

Middelhoff reckons they are. "We did market research and asked 20,000 Napster users, and the willingness to pay is there," he said, according to Reuters.

Barry, meanwhile, repeated his earlier promise, made around the time the agreement with Bertelsmann was struck, to launch a fee-based music sharing service. As before, he couldn't or wouldn't say when this will happen, though presumably he hadn't heard that his chum, Middelhoff, had already let the cat out of the bag. Barry didn't say how much Napster will charge, either.

"Napster will continue to be an easy site to use and Napster will pay royalties," he said. ®

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