Napster confirms membership charge

Napster’s chief executive Hank Barry has told BBC News Online in an exclusive interview that users will soon be charged a membership fee.

Napster’s chief executive Hank Barry has told BBC News Online in an exclusive interview that users will soon be charged a membership fee.

Mr Barry also said royalties would be paid to artists whose material is swapped over the internet with the help of Napster software.

Napster had been sued and threatened with closure by all of the world’s biggest music publishing groups, but late last year the internet venture signed a deal with German media conglomerate Bertelsmann.

Talks are now on-going with other media groups, including TVT and Edel.

Mr Barry said that details of the size and scope of the membership fee are yet to be finalised.

Speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Mr Barry said: “Napster will continue to be an easy site to use and Napster will pay royalties.”

When asked when the membership fee would be put in place he said there was no final schedule.

Bertelsmann has indicated that it could be brought in as early as June this year.

Napster’s site connects music lovers across the world, allowing them to download digital music tracks from each others’ computers free of charge.

The music industry has felt threatened by the rapid growth of the Napster community, because they fear the loss of music sales, while artists lose out on royalties.

Guessing the market

Napster has high hopes for the potential size of the market.

Mr Barry said there were 200 million multimedia PCs worldwide with the capability to copy an MP3 file.

Napster’s software, meanwhile, had been downloaded and installed 57 million times.

While the average person may have 30 CDs, he said hardware with the capability of holding 614 CDs could now be bought for just $150 in the United States.

Lawsuits still threaten Napster

In the meantime, though, Napster still faces lawsuits from most of the big record firms. Mr Barry said: “I think that the record companies believe the best way to proceed is to settle the question.”

Napster, he says, still hopes for “constructive dialogue” and probably “legislation” to solve the copyright issue.

And Mr Barry maintains that record sales are rising: “If you give people more access to music, they buy more music.”

Author: Orla Ryan

News Service: BBC News Online

URL: http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/business/newsid_1142000/1142663.stm