Napster Strikes Deal With Media Giant

(New York-AP) -- It may mark the beginning of the end of the legal fight against Napster -- as well as possibly the end of free downloads through the music-sharing system. Media giant Bertelsmann says it will team up with Napster in developing a membership-based music distribution system through the Internet.

The system would guarantee payments to artists. In return, the German-based media firm will drop its lawsuit against Napster. With the Napster deal, Bertelsmann is breaking ranks with other music industry companies -- which are suing Napster in federal court for copyright infringement. A decision on that suit is pending.

Also yet to be decided -- how the deal will affect Napster's operations. For example, it's unclear how much record companies would get for making music available online -- and how much customers will pay for what they had been getting for free.