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Napster ist nicht tot

New CEO Hilbers promises everything will be great

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New Napster CEO Konrad Hilbers has given a short interview to German mag Stern assuring them (himself?) that Napster isn't dead and giving details of the site's future charging system.

Asked bluntly if Napster was kaput, he replied: "Napster ist nicht tot [Napster is not dead]. The name is very valuable and we are working very hard to make it a successful business."

So how will the new-style Napster look? "In principle, the same as before." Except you will be asked to pay $5 a month. This is at the bottom of previous suggestions by Napster - it was varying between $5 and $10. So what do you get for this? You can exchange music and enter chat rooms. You get music searches, clean downloads and, of course, the music.

The music comes in two forms, although Hilbers doesn't dwell too long on it. The 200 independent labels Napster has signed with will work through its proprietary .nap file format. Hilbers makes mention of copyright-free music being available but we shall see how much effort the company puts into this.

The other form is through music-industry led MusicNet, which will use RealNetworks proprietary format. MusicNet is a conglomeration of BMG, EMI and Warner and is currently being investigated by the European Commission for possible anti-trust behaviour. Napster has a licensing agreement with MusicNet and this will supply your big pop stars. Copyright will be protected in both cases.

Hilbers says he is confident the system will be a success, even if it doesn't attract many original Napster users back into the fold. Interestingly he quotes Shawn Fanning, saying that even with a few hundred users, Napster can still function as a business. If you speak German, you can read the interview here.

Meanwhile the wranglings with the RIAA continue. The RIAA says it has enough evidence that Napster knew its customers were acting illegally that a trial isn't even necessary. "Napster knowingly and willfully set out to build a business based on copyright infringement on an unprecedented scale. Today's action brings us one step closer toward closure in this case by determining Napster's liability," it said, laughing maniacally with a torch held under its chin.

Guess what? Napster doesn't agree. Not that it matters to the rest of us anyway because Napster isn't even up following a judge's decree at the start of July. And so it goes on. ®

Related Link

Stern's interview with Hilbers

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