Napster/MusicNet team up

Popular music-swapping website Napster is seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.

Having spent the last year in court battling an injunction filed against them to remove copyrighted songs from their site, Napster is moving ahead to provide their users the best in music online.

It was announced Tuesday that MusicNet and Napster have reached an agreement to license their digital music on Napster’s new and improved site, launching sometime at the end of the summer.

Established in April by RealNetworks and three of the five major recording labels-Warner Music Group, Bertelsmann AG and EMI Recorded Music-MusicNet, the world’s first digital distribution platform for downloading and streaming music, will offer subscription-based music distribution to third parties on a business-to-business basis. Napster becomes the third distribution partner, joining Real and America Online.

“We are pleased to be able to offer Napster members access to the MusicNet service,” said Hank Barry, interim CEO of Napster. “Our relationship with MusicNet underscores our commitment to supporting the members of the Napster community-the world’s most enthusiastic music fans-in discovering and listening to music of all types from around the world.”

Under the terms of the agreement, Napster will provide access, for an additional fee, to the major label music through MusicNet’s platform. As well, members of the new Napster site who subscribe to this service will be able to share MusicNet content with other MusicNet subscribers as well as Napster members.

“MusicNet is focused on providing a platform that will help consumers who are used to the experience of Napster to find, acquire and enjoy music in a manner that’s legal, reliable, secure and supportive of artists and rights holders,” said Rob Glaser, Chairman of the Board and interim CEO of MusicNet. “[This] announcement is great for consumers, for artists and for the recording industry. We look forward to providing the MusicNet service to the Napster community.”

However, Warner Music and EMI have stated that they will only permit their content to be accessed after Napster successfully complies with the court injunction on copyright infringements.

“Our content will not be available to Napster as part of the MusicNet service until we are reasonably satisfied that Napster is operating in a legal, non-infringing manner and has successfully deployed a technology that accurately tracks the identity of files on the service,” Warner said in a statement.

The two remaining labels, Universal and Sony, have created their own digital subscription service called Duet, but initially will only offer streamed music. Their major client will be the online portal Yahoo! and has stated they would not be against working with Napster as well, once Napster has it’s copyright-friendly system in place, according to a report in Variety.

And how about a Napster movie??

There’s rock ‘n’ roll, money, courtroom drama-sounds like typical Hollywood fare. Marc McCarthy, a spokesman for Starz Encore, a provider of movie programming for cable television operators that is a unit of Liberty Media Group, told Reuters that they were in development on a project called Napster.

The film will be based on the story of 18-year-old Shawn Fanning, a Northwestern University dropout, who wrote the source code for the music-swapping program in 1999 as a way for his friends to share their favorite songs online. He created the phenomenally popular website that turned the $40 billion recording industry upside down.

And 70 million Napster fans will mostly likely flock to see the movie.