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Messier said that in order to license songs to Napster, or any other service like it, the netcos "must respect copyright," and their "technology must be reasonably secure."
MESSIER SAYS UMG MAY PACT
WITH NAPSTER
We All Knew It Was Only A Matter Of Time Before The French Surrendered
In a surprise move, Vivendi Universal's top executive indicated that his Universal Music Group, previously adamant against any dealings with online companies that participate in copyright infringement, may now do business with Napster, now that the file-swapping netco has initiated its plan to transform into a copyright-friendly service.

In comments made to a media conference in London Monday (3/5), Vivendi Universal Chairman Jean-Marie Messier said that UMG would begin licensing music within two months for subscription-based services being developed by the French Internet service provider Wanadoo, Microsoft Network and even Napster, reported Inside.com. Messier's comments came shortly after Napster rolled out a filtering system to screen out unauthorized music (hitsdailydouble.com, 3/2).

According to Messier, Universal would license its catalog for online uses through Duet, its joint venture with Sony Music (hitsdailydouble.com, 2/22), to any number of Napster-like services over the coming months, according to a report in the Industry Standard.

Messier said that in order to license songs to Napster, or any other service like it, the netcos "must respect copyright," and their "technology must be reasonably secure."

"We will license Napster with urgency when those two criteria are met," he said.

Messier's comments go completely against previous UMG strategy regarding any possible deals with Napster.

Duet, he said, would license these new platforms and not become a competitor of Napster.

Confirmation that UMG executives think Messier has been drinking too much French champagne could not be obtained. But sources at the company insist that "something in regards to Napster had to have been lost in the translation."

In related news, Vivendi Universal is close to selling its 55% stake in AOL France back to AOL Time Warner for $700 million, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The paper says the transaction has been agreed to in principle, but shareholders in Vivendi's telecommunications arm, Cegetel, which owns part of the stake, must first approve the agreement. Even so, the deal could be finalized within two weeks.

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