LOS ANGELES — MP3.com restored its beleaguered music locker service Tuesday, seven months after lawsuits from record labels and music publishers forced its shutdown.
The My.Mp3.com service, which was once completely free, will now feature two levels of service. For no charge, members can store up to 25 CDs. That service will be advertising-supported.
For an annual fee of $49.95, members will be able to store up to 500 CDs and enjoy more features and less advertising.
My.Mp3.com, which allows members to store songs on the Internet and listen to them over any Web-enabled device, triggered a copyright infringement lawsuit in January by the five major record labels, music publishers and several independent labels.
The plaintiffs argued that by allowing people to instantly listen to music they buy, or add music from their collection to a personal “locker” by briefly inserting a CD into a computer for verification, MP3.com illegally distributed music for which they did not own the rights.
MP3.com, based in San Diego, disabled the service in May to prevent anyone from storing music produced by the major recording companies that filed the copyright lawsuit.
Over the course of the summer, the company reached settlements with most labels, agreeing to pay a lump sum for past violations and a licensing fee for future use. Every major label settled, except for Universal Music Group, which forced the case to trial.
In September, U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff ruled that MP3.com willfully violated record company copyrights and ordered the company to pay damages.
Last month, MP3.com ended the lawsuit by agreeing to pay UMG $53.4 million. The company also reached a separate licensing agreement with rock star David Bowie.
The company still faces lawsuits from several independent labels.
Several critical issues still remain for the company, including its efforts to negotiate licenses with independent labels that represent major artists such as The Backstreet Boys and ’N Sync.
And it remains to be seen if consumers will embrace the new service and will pay a subscription fee to listen to music they already own.
“Nobody yet knows how popular the premium service may prove to be,” Phil Leigh, an analyst at Raymond James & Associates wrote in a report Tuesday. “To date there has been little evidence that consumers are willing to pay for content on the Web, as evidenced by the experiences of organizations like Slate and TheStreet.Com.”
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