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Napster takes executive action in Europe

Now that its legal troubles are in the past, the reborn music download service hires a former MP3.com exec to help it expand into the lucrative European market.

Napster, the now-legal music service, has hired its first Europe-based executive as part of a drive to expand into the lucrative European market.

The appointment of Leanne Sharman, a former vice president of sales and marketing at MP3.com, was announced Friday.

Precise details of Sharman's role weren't available, but as Napster's first European executive she will be spearheading the company's expansion into Europe. The European market is being eyed by several big U.S. online music retailers.

"We can't say a great deal at this stage," said a Napster representative. "Leanne's appointment is in response to the tremendous demand for Napster's services that we have seen from Europe."

The representative explained that Napster wants to have a senior player located in Europe to create partnerships with European-based companies. Napster won't name any likely partners at this stage, but says that it's keen to look at a wide range of possible brand tie-ins.

Napster was relaunched as a legal online music service last autumn. Its high-profile battles with the traditional music industry ended with Napster filing for bankruptcy protection in June 2002, and some of its assets were then snapped up by CD-burning software company Roxio.

Despite competition from services such as Apple Computer's iTunes and RealNetworks' Rhapsody, the new Napster is understood to be doing well. It sells individual music tracks for 99 cents, and albums for $9.99, on top of a free service that lets people view music videos and download short audio clips, and a premium service for $9.99 per month.

Graeme Wearden of ZDNet UK reported from London.