- Napster has signed a licensing deal with MusicNet, an online distributor of music that counts three of the major music labels among its backers, Napster announced yesterday.
The deal should allow Napster to offer MusicNet's content as part of a subscription service that Napster plans to launch later this year, the companies say in a joint statement. MusicNet is a joint venture operated by AOL Time Warner, Bertelsmann, EMI Recorded Music and RealNetworks.
The deal marks a big step forward for Napster, which is being sued by the recording industry for allegedly helping its users to violate music copyrights on a large scale. However, it wasn't immediately clear if the record labels are ready to welcome Napster with open arms.
In the statement issued yesterday, Napster and MusicNet note that the labels have agreed to let Napster distribute their music "at such time as Napster is operating in a legal, non-infringing manner and has successfully deployed a technology that accurately tracks the identity of files on the service."
Lawyers for Napster and the recording industry are due to appear before a San Francisco district court judge this week in the latest round of hearings in the ongoing lawsuit.
With the deal, Napster says it becomes the third distribution partner to team with MusicNet. The first two affiliates are RealNetworks and America Online, both of which announced licences for the MusicNet service in April.
MusicNet was formed by RealNetworks and Warner Music Group early last year. The company was announced as a joint venture of RealNetworks, AOL Time Warner, Bertelsmann, and EMI in April of 2001.
Napster says the deal marks a big step forward in its plans to provide its subscribers with access to music from the major labels, which will now be available to Napster users only through the MusicNet platform. Napster subscribers will be able to share MusicNet content
with other MusicNet subscribers who are also Napster members, the company says.