Napster is back as digital music service Rhapsody rebrands

WASHINGTON - Napster, the brand that popularised online music sharing in the early days of the Internet, is back.

The digital music group Rhapsody, which bought the Napster brand in 2011, announced it was rebranding itself as Napster.

Napster was launched in 1999 as a peer-to-peer file-sharing service and became wildly popular as Internet users discovered ways to get music online.

But Napster was found to be facilitating music piracy and shut down by the United States courts in 2001, leading to bankruptcy.

The brand lived on, however, and was acquired by American retailer Best Buy in 2008 for US$121 million (S$163 million), before being sold to Rhapsody for an undisclosed price.

A short blog post on Tuesday on Rhapsody said little about the change, with a headline, "Rhapsody is becoming Napster." The statement said: "No changes to your playlists, favourites, albums, and artists. Same music. Same service. Same price. 100 per cent the music you love. Stay tuned!"

Napster was created by Sean Parker - who went on to be Facebook's first president and has since become a prominent Silicon Valley figure - and his friend Shawn Fanning.

With an estimated 3.5 million subscribers, Rhapsody has been trailing other online music services such as Spotify, Pandora and Apple Music.