Controversial online song-swapping service Napster is looking for music publishers to support its pay service.
Hank Barry, Napster chief executive officer, has talked with MusicNet to work out a licensing deal and wants to talk with Sony and Universal's Duet, Reuters reported Tuesday.
Napster's usage has dropped from 250,000 in February to 150,000 in recent days because of a court order banning the downloading of copyrighted songs. Napster's attempt to break ground in music technology-by allowing users access to songs via the Internet-resulted in copyright infringement lawsuits. Users will soon have to pay a monthly fee to access music files through Napster.
Barry sees big opportunity in subscription services even without a big label's consent. Napster will need a license from the copyright owners of the songs in order to launch its new service, which will enable all artists and songwriters to receive payments regardless of whether they are on a major label.
Barry told Reuters the pay service would launch in the summer.
Also Tuesday, BMG said it would share its $20 million in damages with its artists whose songs were copyright infringed upon by another online song-swapping service, MP3.com. BMG's artists include Carlos Santana, Christina Aguilera and the Dave Matthews Band.
"We value our relationships with our artists and we feel this is the best course to take to foster those relationships," Bob Jamieson, BMG North America's president and chief executive officer, told Reuters.
BMG also will allocate a portion of the damages to its music-publishing arm, which will distribute some money to songwriters.
Legal action against MP3.com soon began after it launched a service called My.MP3.com in January 2000. The service allowed users to store music from their favorite artists on a folder, which they could access via the Internet.
According to Reuters, the service included a database of over 80,000 albums copied by MP3.com, which the record labels and publishers argued violated copyright law.
As a result, the service was shut down in April 2000 after a federal judge ruled against MP3.com, which paid over $160 million in damages to the five major record labels (Universal, Sony, Bertelsmann AG's BMG Entertainment, AOL Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Music Group, and EMI Group) in copyright infringement.
Universal refused to settle with MP3.com and was rewarded more than the $20 million the labels received. All the other labels agreed to split the money with artists, regardless of contract wording.