The free ride for

Napster

and its devotees appears to be over.

The popular Internet music-download site, under siege by record companies accusing it of aiding copyright infringement, announced Tuesday that it plans to start charging user fees this summer, according to a report on

The New York Times

Web site.

Napster also says it will pay $1 billion over five years to record companies.

The company said it is considering charging users between $5.95 and $9.95 to download an unlimited number of music files, and may charge another fee for users who want to transfer the files to their own CDs.

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Last week in San Francisco, the

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

upheld a

ruling that found Napster is a conduit for copyright infringement. The appeals court remanded the case to the lower court to produce an injunction preventing Napster from being used to exchange copyrighted material, the

Times

said.

Under Napster's offer, the five major record companies would split $150 million a year, the

Times

said. An additional $50 million per year would be split among independent music companies and artists.