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Napster 2.0 Music Service Details To Be Unveiled Thursday by Roxio

By Chris Gaither

The Boston Globe -- san francisco

Napster is playing by the music industry’s rules this time.

Roxio Inc., the new owner of the seminal file-sharing service’s brand name, will unveil details of its Napster 2.0 music service in New York Thursday.

A federal court shuttered Napster in 2001 after the world’s largest record labels sued it for allowing widespread digital piracy. But Roxio has struck deals with those same record labels and expects to make more than 500,000 songs available online.

Napster 2.0, due before the holidays, combines elements of the two most popular business models emerging in digital music -- streaming over the Internet and downloads. And this time around, the former renegade service is entering a landscape that has been changed by the music industry’s cooperation.

The lawsuits filed last month against 261 people accused of sharing copyrighted music over the Internet is only one part of the recording industry’s fight to reclaim control over how its music reaches consumers. After years of uncertainty on how to curtail the growing threat from file-sharing programs, record labels are finally striking less-restrictive deals with dozens of technology partners.

“The industry is being dragged into the future,” said Jerry Goolsby, a business professor at Loyola University in New Orleans who studies the music industry.

The rush of companies offering or working on download services signals that established technology companies believe broad audiences are ready to pay to download songs.

Since Apple Computer Inc. launched its iTunes Music Store, which has sold 10 million songs, established e-commerce and computing players have signaled their intention to follow. The success of iTunes comes in spite of the fact that the service is available only to the 3 to 5 percent of computer users on the Macintosh platform.