February 24, 2003 12:23 PM PST

Roxio taps Fanning for Napster take two

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Former file-swapping wunderkind Sean Fanning has signed up to help CD-burning technology company Roxio build a reborn Napster service--but with a difference.

The new Napster won't look anything like the anarchic search-and-download service that kicked off file-trading legal battles more than three years ago, Roxio said Monday. The software company plans to work strictly by the record industry's playbook, and is taking the peer-to-peer component that was a foundation of much of Napster's appeal out of the service altogether, at least initially.

"We're looking to put a legal service up by year end," Roxio spokeswoman Kathryn Kelly said. "Our CEO, Chris Gorog, is in talks with all the major labels now."

The new Napster envisioned by Roxio--which purchased Napster's name and technology assets for $5 million in a bankruptcy auction in November--would fall more in line with authorized subscription and paid-download services such as Pressplay or MusicNet. As such, it would break little new ground, but could be a valuable new distribution channel for record labels' online efforts.

Roxio is planning to integrate the Napster music download service into its recently released Audio Central music jukebox program, which currently makes up part of its Easy CD & DVD Creator 6 disc-burning software. The jukebox and music download component may wind up being distributed separately, Kelly said.

Fanning, who created the original Napster file-swapping service while a university student, has been hired to help launch the new service as a consultant, rather than as a full-time Roxio employee.

Although the original Napster song-swapping service has been shuttered for more than a year and half, its influence lives on.

Last week, a group of songwriters sued German media giant Bertelsmann, asking for $17 billion in damages. Bertelsmann's loans to and corporate support for the file-trading service in its final year of operation extended Napster's life, and therefore contributed to copyright infringement, the music publishers claim.

Other file-swapping services--most notably Sharman Networks' Kazaa--remain strong. The Kazaa software itself has now been downloaded more than 193 million times, far more than Napster's, according to Download.com, a software aggregation site operated by News.com publisher CNET Networks.

Roxio already has a head start on its music licensing plans. Shortly before purchasing Napster's assets, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based business was named by the EMI Group record label as one of nine Net music companies granted broad licenses to offer download and CD-burning services using its music.

 

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