British independent labels trade body AIM has signed a worldwide distribution agreement with Napster 2.0, the commercial digital-music service owned by Roxio Inc.

British independent labels trade body AIM has signed a worldwide distribution agreement with Napster 2.0, the commercial digital-music service owned by Roxio Inc.

Initially, the deal gives Napster's U.S. service and the soon-to-launch U.K. edition access to potentially 50,000 digitized tracks for downloading or streaming. U.K. indies Cooking Vinyl, Domino, Ninja Tune, and Gut are among the 50 labels to have come on board. Other labels from AIM's 800-strong membership are expected to take advantage of the agreement over the coming months.

The deal, negotiated by AIM's new-media division Musicindie and administered by rights-management specialist Rightsrouter, will also be offered to IMPALA, the umbrella organization for indie labels in continental Europe. Napster is expected to seek entry into France, Germany and Spain following its launch in the U.K.

Although the deal is worldwide, Steven Johnston, Musicindie's head of licensing, says Musicindie will hold on-going talks to determine local dealer and retail prices for songs as and when Napster enters new markets.

The agreement also represents one of the first significant moves by content owners to use the services of Rightsrouter, which launched in January.

Rightsrouter is in talks with other indie organizations such as Germany's VUT, SOM in Sweden and Brazil's ABMI to administer licensed digital tracks for online music services.

More deals are expected to be announced at AIM's annual meeting on June 22.

The new Napster deal is separate to the one AIM signed in 2001 with the original Napster, then an unauthorized P2P service. The original Napster was declared bankrupt in 2002. AIM-which was owned nearly $4 million--was appointed chair of the unsecured creditors. The situation remains unresolved.

"The bankruptcy trustees are assessing how much money is left," explains Michael Fuller, AIM's head of legal and business affairs. The organization is being represented by Boston law firm Seyfarth Shaw.

Although he sees an eventual resolution, Fuller adds: "If the claims are challenged, there could be further lawsuits."