Napster will launch a test version of its new service on Thursday which prevents the unauthorized sharing of copyrighted files -- a feature which made the original service popular among users but hated by the recording industry which sued it for copyright infringement.
The test or "beta'' version, which lacks content from the major music labels, will not be open to the public. Instead, it will be offered to 20,000 people randomly selected from a group of more than two million who e-mailed Napster showing interest in participating in the beta test.
Over 100,000 files will be available on Napster for the beta trial. All are currently licensed to the company for free by the mostly small, independent labels who have agreed to work with the service.
Konrad Hilbers, the chief executive of Napster, said in an interview he expected to sign deals with some or all of the major music labels soon and relaunch the full version of Napster sometime toward the end of the first quarter.
"We don't feel total resistance from any of the majors,'' he said. However, he also said the full version would not relaunch unless it did have major label content to offer.
The beta test will be free, but the full version, should the relaunch take place, will cost somewhere between $5 and $10 a month, Hilbers said.
That fee will allow the user 50 downloads per month with no limit on the total number of downloaded files the user can have at any one time.
News source: Yahoo!/Reuters