Embattled file sharing service Napster Inc. has launched a beta test of its newly designed subscription-based music download service with 20,000 people. The company is making about 110,000 songs available to the testers, though those songs are not from any of the major record labels.
Napster launched as a free service in 1999 and became so popular with Internet users wishing to download music — from both well-known and obscure artists — that the major record labels took notice. The Recording Industry Association of America, the trade group representing many of the major record labels, sued Napster for copyright violations and eventually had the company shut down. Napster was resurrected by Bertelsmann AG, which currently is bankrolling the company.
The company plans to charge subscribers between $5 and $10 per month for 50 downloads. To manage the subscription end of the business, Napster will use the Infranet management and billing software from Cupertino, CA-based Portal Software Inc. The software is able to track downloads from anywhere in the world and will ensure that recording artists are compensated for each download of their music.
Napster said that by using Infranet it will be able to develop “consumer friendly” pricing plans, effectively track file-sharing activity among its subscribers and ensure accurate royalty payments to recording artists.