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NAPSTER’S BARRY DENIES
SALES TALK

Is It So Hard To Believe That Someone Would Pay Millions To Take On Napster’s Legal Woes?
While Napster is currently embroiled in a fight for its life with the recording industry, media reports claim that the popular music file-sharing service may be entertaining thoughts of a sale.

Napster CEO Hank Barry, however, late Wednesday (10/4) denied that such a move was anywhere near fruition.

Online news service Inside.com reported Wednesday that two large Internet service providers are currently in talks to purchase Napster for a reported $500 million.

"We'd be happy to talk to anyone who has a serious interest in working with Napster," Barry told MTV News. "[But] who are [these interested parties], and what are their phone numbers?"

While the deal detailed in the Inside.com report would bring any service provider some legal red tape, it would also give the service access to Napster's network of 32 million users. The news carrier reports that such a deal would also see users pay for Napster as a "premium service" and would find the ISP passing along portions of those fees to record labels.

The subscription model, which has been floated before, is the most accessible potential common ground Napster and the labels can reach, sources said.

Barry, however, denied the report that these alleged interested parties have proposed such a deal.

Napster and the RIAA are deeply entangled in a legal battle regarding the netco's operations that was presented Monday (10/2) to a three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (hitsdailydouble.com, 10/2).

The trio of appellate judges, who are currently reviewing a lower court's injunction against Napster that would shut the service down pending a ruling, stayed the decision to keep the service operational, though the injunction could be reinstated at any time.

Judging from what occurred during Monday's trial, the music industry's legal and political plan is to treat the service's users as potential customers, not as copyright infringers.

"It's very important what the record industry says to the users of Napster over the next four or five months," RIAA topper Hilary Rosen told Sonicnet.com.

Judge Robert Beezer, one of the troika overseeing the proceedings, suggested during the hearing that the recording industry could indeed bring criminal piracy charges against Napster users for sharing music. And, Napster lead attorney David Boies said that if the recording industry presents the company with a list of users whom they allege to be infringing, Napster will immediately remove those users' accounts.

At the hearing Monday, recording industry lawyer Russell Frackman said that the music industry has no plans to take any action against Napster's estimated 30 million registered users. "There are millions of people out there... We don't want to attempt to put a user in jail for using the Napster system," he said.

"I don't think this is about punishing users," Rosen added. "Look, if I'm walking down the street, and somebody has figured out how to open the doors to Tower Records, [I'd be tempted,] too, to walk in and get some free music. This is really about whether Napster is going to be responsible for the [users'] activity."

In related news, the Napster service was unavailable for a few hours early Wednesday as a technical glitch interfered with the music downloading process.

To the relief of 32 million users who are counting the days until the system is shut down, the site was back up by late morning.

The technical difficulties were not related to the copyright infringement case, Napster said.

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