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Bertelsmann To Resume Online Music Service In 2001

German media giant Bertelsmann said on Tuesday it would start a pay-service this year for music over the Internet via Napster, the song-swap firm that rocked the music world with its free service.

“Expect Napster (to run) this year,” said Bertelsmann Chief Executive Thomas Middelhof at a media conference in Potsdam. The technology is in place, he said.

Last year Bertelsmann entered a strategic alliance with Napster, which was being sued by a number of major record labels. The firm enabled people to download digital music files from its Web site for free, and to trade compressed MP3 computer files of favourite tracks.

A few months ago Napster was forced to filter out copyrighted material, which led to a 65 percent decline worldwide in its service. In July, Napster was turned off to adjust its databank to new song filters.

Middelhoff said the new technology protects 99.3 percent of the copyrighted tracks. A U.S. court had ordered Napster to block access to all song files covered by copyright.

Initially Bertelsmann and Napster planned to offer a subscription service in the summer.

The executive could not be pinned down on the price of the new Napster service. He said only that there would be a few surprises in the coming days. Reports have said subscribers may have to pay $5 per month for a basic service.

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