San Francisco — In a deal that could legitimize Napster, the outlaw song-sharing service is close to signing a deal with three major record labels to participate in a new music subscription service this summer, industry sources said Tuesday.
The agreement between Napster and the members of MusicNet could be announced as soon as today, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
MusicNet is a venture between record label owners AOL Time Warner Inc., Bertelsmann and EMI Group, as well as Seattle-based RealNetworks, whose software allows users to listen to music and video using the Internet.
Details have yet to be worked out, and it remained unclear how the companies would distribute music.
If a deal is worked out, it could provide MusicNet access to loyal users of Napster and give Napster access to a large bank of legal music files.
MusicNet has not determined what it would charge for access to songs. Napster also has said that it hoped to roll out a new version of its service this summer, one that would ensure royalty payments to artists and labels.
Napster is being sued by the music industry for copyright infringement and has been trying to purge copyright-protected music files from its system under court order. Napster has yet to satisfy industry concerns.