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Middelhoff: Give Napster Time

Bertelsmann AG chairman and CEO Thomas Middelhoff has asked the record companies to “keep Napster alive” until an effective transition into a legitimate model occurs July 1. Otherwise, Middelhoff said Monday, 70 million users will be forced to go to other services – a move that he thinks would be a major loss for the record industry.

However, if Napster fails to have a legitimate solution by July 1, Middelhoff said, the file-swapping service should be shut down. Bertelsmann and Napster entered into a strategic alliance in October.

Middelhoff’s speech during a town hall meeting at the Beverly Hilton was called “A Look at the Media Industry as It Enters the Digital Age,” and it was filled with quips regarding the Napster controversy. “Napster is a community of music lovers – not only a community of music stealers or thieves, but people who are really committed to music,” Middelhoff said. The music industry “underestimated” the Internet, the Bertelsmann chief said, and was “caught unprepared” by the advances in technology. It is not fair, he added, for the music companies to “criminalize the community of Internet lovers” as a result of their slow action.

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