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Napster Talks With Microsoft For New Platform

Embattled song-swap company Napster Inc. is talking with many technology companies, including Microsoft Corp., as part of its efforts to design a fee-charging service that pays royalties to artists and record labels, a spokeswoman said Friday.

“Napster has been talking with Microsoft, along with a number of other technology companies, about how several of their products might be incorporated into the new Napster service. Those conversations are ongoing,” the spokeswoman said.

She declined to elaborate but sources said that Napster has already spoken with dozens of technology firms.

Microsoft officials were not immediately available.

Napster has said it hopes to launch the new version, which it is developing with Bertelsmann AG, by summer.

To date, Napster has licensed technology from Gracenote and Relatable for its anti-piracy efforts.

On Thursday, Napster Chief Executive Hank Barry said recent reports of Napster’s demise were greatly exaggerated.

Research reports have showed sharp declines in usage as the service struggles to filter out copyrighted songs to comply with a March 5 court order requiring Napster to prevent users from trading copyrighted songs.

Napster noted that the site still draws about 8 million people per day. But Webnoize reported this week that the number of files traded on the Napster service has steadily declined, from a peak of 2.79 billion in February to 2.49 billion in March and 1.59 billion in April.

Webnoize said the number of songs swapped on Napster fell by more than a third, down 36 percent, in April from March as its court-ordered filters blocked more pirated files.

Napster’s service has attracted over 60 million users by enabling music fans to swap songs for free by trading MP3 files, a compression format that turns music on compact discs into small digital files.

The world’s biggest record labels – including Vivendi Universal’s Universal Music, Sony Music, Warner Music, EMI Group Plc, and Bertelsmann AG’s BMG first sued Napster in December 1999, claiming it was a haven for copyright piracy that would cost them billions of dollars in lost music sales.

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