Napster Agrees To Charge Users For MP3 Service

Napster announced an agreement with German media giant Bertelsmann Tuesday, under which the music-sharing service will begin to charge its online members, funneling some of the profits to record companies and the artists that hold copyrights on the songs.

The agreement effectively ends the involvement of Bertelsmann subsidiary BMG in a lawsuit filed against the renegade company, although its effect on other major labels--and on a request made to Harvard to ban students from using the site--remains unclear.

BMG represents a slew of top acts, like Usher and the Dave Matthews Band.


Bertelsmann's chief executive officer, Thomas Middelhoff, said his company agreed to lend Napster a substantial amount of money to help finance the transition, and, in turn, will receive an option to buy a part of the company.

Bertelsmann officials also said they would try to convince the other litigants to cooperate with Napster.

Though details still have to be worked out, under one proposal, Napster would charge its users a $4.95 monthly fee.

While the new agreement may help to preserve Napster and legitimize its use, many Harvard students, part of Napster's core college-age demographic, considered the compromise a sellout.

"I think the original concept was great, but having to pay changes it all," Jonathan Y. Yu '02 said. "I wouldn't pay to use Napster."

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