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Napster to ditch MP3 for proprietary format

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Napster is going to ditch the MP3 format altogether and run instead with a proprietaryformat, .nap, that will include a digital rights aspect and keep music companies off its back.

Yep, in what is the final nail in the coffin of what Napster once stood for, the company has done a deal with PlayMedia Systems to develop the new .nap format. PlayMedia will work on encryption and playback and Bertelsmann will tie it in with a digital rights system so files can't be swapped without people paying for them.

Napster will also be split in two - one half dealing with the .nap format and supplying music from the various independent labels it has done deals with, and the other half working with MusicNet under Real Networks' proprietary format.

Napster's new software will convert your MP3s to its own format before putting them up on the Napster network, giving the company a large degree of control over what goes on in its own network and hopefully satisfying the music companies and US law courts.

As such, Napster will go from being the open format that gave the status quo a huge headache to the most tightly controlled music supplier on the Net.

But will the new-look music-industry loving Napster survive? Of course, marketing people will guff on about it being a strong brand but then as a brand it stands for a very, very clear philosophy: free exchange of whatever music files you like. Will people want to use a Napster that is so tightly controlled? Will it not irk? Or are people the gormless sheep marketers think we are?

Should be interesting to see. ®

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