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Napster 2.0 goes live

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Napster goes live today, segueing from the beta release launched earlier this month into a fully fledged version 2.0, whose only real connection with the infamous file swapping service of yore is the headphoned cat logo.

Like Apple's iTunes Music Store, which provided the template for the new service, Napster 2.0 offers downloads for 99 cents a song or $9.95 for a whole album's worth, with 30s previews of each song available for punters who want to try before they buy.

Users can also watch music videos, transfer songs to portable music players and burn tracks to CD. Song for burning have to be added to a playlist, and each playlist can be burned only five times - half as many as ITMS' ten.

The service claims to have over 500,000 songs to choose from, encoded in Windows Media 9 format, which also provides the service with its DRM technology. Don't lose your downloads - Napster won't give you a free replacement: "It is your responsibility not to lose, destroy or damage them. Napster shall have no liability to you in the event of any such loss, destruction, or damage," says its Ts&Cs.

Curiously, the service also offers "the ability to send music to friends both within and outside of the service". It will be interesting to see how this works, particularly since it appears to run contrary to Napster's own Ts&Cs: "You may not authorize, encourage or allow any Tracks or Materials used or obtained by you to be reproduced, modified, displayed, performed, transferred, distributed or otherwise used by anyone else."

As with other US services, Napster content is not available to any living overseas.

Finally, in a nod toward the original legal online music services, Napster offers a subscription service, for $9.95 a month, which adds 40 "commercial-free" radio stations, additional "community features" - chat options, presumably - but crucially unlimited downloads and streaming.

Roxio, Napster's owner, lost $11.9 million in its last fiscal quarter on sales of $22.8 million, so presumably it's hoping all those $9.95 subs will help bring it back into the black. ®

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