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Bertelsmann, Napster will charge all surfers

Feb. 1, 2001

Music company's plan to go into effect this summer, officials say

BY BILLY O'KEEFE

Tribune Media Services

The party may still be raging, but the cops are on the way.

German publishing conglomerate Bertelsmann announced this week that it will introduce this summer a subscription plan requiring surfers to pay for Napster.

Napster is the popular online music-swapping service that attracts more than 8 million users a day.

Neither Bertelsmann nor Napster disclosed information regarding how much a subscription to the service would cost.

Both groups also refused to disclose what limitations the service might carry, or exactly when the new plan takes effect.

Additionally, no information was available on what music Napster would offer subscribers.

Bertelsmann owns music publisher BMG Music, but plans for the involvement of other major and independent labels are still in question.

'I'm convinced we can introduce in June or July of this year a subscription model, with a real working digital rights management system,' said Bertelsmann Chief Executive Officer Thomas Middelhoff, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

Napster forged a partnership with Bertelsmann in October of last year after more than a dozen breach-of-copyright lawsuits from various music publishers, BMG included, threatened to pull the company under.

Middelhoff said that he does not expect a significant decline in Napster's user base once the subscription takes effect.

In fact, Middelhoff referred to a survey of 25,000 of the service's more than 55 million users, in which 70 percent said they would be willing to pay up to keep the downloads coming.