Napster makes legitimate return to online music

Roxio, the company that bought the remnants of song-swapping service Napster, is to relaunch the service in the US today.

Roxio, the company which bought the remnants of song-swapping service Napster, is to relaunch the service in the US  today.

Napster's resurrection comes more than two years after the service was knocked offline amid accusations of copyright infringement from the major record labels.

Mark Mulligan, senior analyst with Jupiter Research, said Napster's "hip" image will be an advantage in the market.

Napster 2.0 will be a paid service with deals from all five major labels and a handful of independents firmly in place. It will, initially, offer access to more than 500,000 tracks through individual download, monthly subscription and internet radio.

Because of the limits of the record licensing deals, Napster 2.0 will focus on music streaming and burning will come at a premium, Mulligan said.

"It will be a welcome addition to the market, but will be nowhere near what Napster used to be," he added.

For a nearly unlimited music selection, users will still be tempted to go to free music-trading programs such as Kazaa. Mulligan said Kazaa is a bigger brand name than Napster but it has been hurt by the amount of spyware lurking on its service.

Roxio has been preparing for the relaunch of Napster since it said it was scooping up Napster's intellectual property and technology patents for around $5m late last year.

The company bought online music subscription service Pressplay for $39.5m in May, saying that it would use the service's technology as the platform to relaunch Napster as a legitimate service.

Roxio, which sells digital media software, is banking on Napster's brand name and image to make a splash in the online music service market.

Although Roxio's position as a CD-burning software provider may give consumers the hope of more portability and download capabilities, Mulligan said that, again, it will be limited by the licensing deals.

Mulligan predicted that it may be some time before Napster 2.0 makes its debut in Europe.

Scarlet Pruitt writes for IDG News Service

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