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Napster nabs major-label veteran

The online music-swapping software company moves toward conciliation with the record industry by hiring a Universal Music Group executive with copyright management experience.

Online music-swapping software company Napster took another small step toward conciliation with the record industry today by hiring a major-label executive with experience managing artists' copyrights.

The technology start-up said it is bringing on Keith Bernstein, an executive at Universal Music Group's digital music division, as a vice president of operations. At Universal, Bernstein most recently had been involved with an effort to allocate publishing and copyright royalties to artists whose music would be sold online.

"Keith's experience and abilities, coupled with his entrepreneurial insights, make him a perfect fit as we build out our systems and our company," Napster CEO Hank Barry said in a statement.

Bernstein is also a co-founder of the Royalty Review Council, an industry group that aims to collect data on digital downloads of music and other entertainment products.

The hire comes as Napster is making increasingly public moves to carve a legitimate place for itself in the mainstream music industry. It has signed marketing deals with independent record companies and recording artists and is attempting to convince a judge that it can be used for unambiguously legal music promotional purposes.

Still, big record companies remain miffed by Napster's insistence in Napster wildfire court documents that copying songs online using the Napster software as an aid is legal. The Recording Industry Association of America is scheduled to make its response to Napster's argument in its own documents tomorrow, and the two sides will meet in court July 26.

Last week, Barry said that no settlement talks were "ongoing" at that time.

Bernstein is the latest in a string of critical hires for the young firm. The company recently signed former Justice Department antitrust attorney David Boies, who spearheaded the government's antitrust case against Microsoft, to lead the legal team defending it against the record industry's lawsuit.

The company also recently brought on board Barry, a venture capitalist with experience in the music business, and chief operating officer Milt Olin, who spent years inside A&M Records.

Bernstein will work under Olin. The pair worked together during a stint at A&M.