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Napster looks to de-tether downloads

'We hear the kids like these MP3 things'

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Napster will once again deal in the scourge that are MP3s now that the major record labels have decided that MP3s are not evil but rather their future.

The music vendor will allow customers to purchase DRM-free songs and albums in the MP3 format. However, those poor souls subscribing to the Napster music rental service will still be tethered.

The Napster brand hasn't been associated with DRM-free music since the glorious illegal file trading days of, oh, 2000ish.

The shift to MP3s - rather than Microsoft DRMed tunes - will occur during the second quarter for Napster. The company has yet to reveal which labels will join its crusade, although all of the big boys are dabbling with the DRM-free idea.

About 750,000 people subscribe to Napster's tethered download rental system, and the company remains focused on that business. Still, Napster would like to grow its download business and sees the freedom of MP3s as a way "to break down the dominance of the closed iPod-iTunes system," according to CEO Chris Gorog, speaking to the Wall Street Journal.

Warner, EMI and Universal already sell MP3s via Amazon.com. ®

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