Napster, the pioneering online music service, is getting another lease on life with the launch by year's end of a legal, subscription-based music business, its new owners said Monday.
Roxio, which bought Napster's name and intellectual property for $5 million at a November bankruptcy sale, said it is in discussions with the five major music labels to provide content for the online service.
Best known for its CD-creation and digital media software, Roxio also hired Napster founder Shawn Fanning this month as a consultant to the service, said spokeswoman Kathryn Kelly.
But the new Napster won't be based on the famous file-swapping technology that, boasting 60 million users at its height, upset the record labels and doomed the company in a sea of copyright infringement litigation.
"Before it launches, it will have to be legal," Kelly said. "And it will be top-tier content, not unheard-of bands you see now with most of the subscription services."
The old Napster, which halted the free file-swapping frenzy in July 2001, was planning to launch its own subscription service. But the company liquidated before that service was publicly launched.
Much of the problem in launching the legal service stemmed from the old company's poor relationship with the major labels, which were suing at the same time Napster was trying to strike distribution deals.
Though Roxio will keep the well-known Napster name, it hopes its negotiations will go farther since it is unencumbered by the litigation, Kelly said.
Also, Chris Gorog, who became Roxio's chief executive in 2000, was previously an executive at Universal Studios.
"Chris has the relationships with the entertainment industry," Kelly said. "The record labels know we want to do this the correct way and the legal way."