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Napster yesterday blamed obstructive record companies for its decision to delay the relaunch of its music service by several months.

Konrad Hilbers, Napster's new CEO, said the service will now launch in Q1, 2002, and not this year as previously announced.

In his keynote speech at Webnoize 2001 in Los Angeles,
Hilbers blamed rival record companies which are failing to agree terms with Napster over use of their music. "The biggest hurdle Napster faces is obtaining this content," he told the conference.

The disagreement is seen by some as stalling tactic by the record companies, all of which are releasing their own online music sites in the near future.

Although Napster has lost much of its credibility since US courts found in the music industry's favour and shut the service down, recent figures have shown that it still has a huge online awareness. If people have to pay for the music, they are likely to go to Napster, unless record companies can establish their new brands, MusicNet and Pressplay, first.

Hilbers argued that Congress should think about "compulsory licensing" - which isn't a bad idea and a case could be made for it, but is unlikely to help him out at the moment. Napster had 60 million users at its peak but has been in purgatory since March.

Yesterday, the site's owner, German media and music giant Bertelsmann, invested a further £18 million in the company. ®

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