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Napster to Charge $5 Subscription Fee

Apparently it's official: Napster will soon start charging users a $5 per month subscription fee.

"The fee is necessary to pay the musicians' copyrights," Konrad Hilbers -- who took the reins of the struggling song swapping company from outgoing Chief Executive Officer Hank Barry -- told German "stern" magazine in an interview which was published this Wednesday.

Hilbers came to Naptster in June from a position as executive vice president with Germany's Bertelsmann AG, parent of Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG) and a recent investor in Napster. Hilbers was the chief administrative officer for BMG Entertainment.

"In principle," however, everything will remain "like it was before," Hilbers told the magazine.

Napster users will still be able to make their own CDs available to other music fans using their computers and their Internet connections. Whereas Napster formerly had up to 70 million users, Hilbers quotes Napster founder Shawn Fanning in saying that now "just a few hundred participants are enough to create an attractive offer."