Song-sharing service Napster will not relaunch until sometime early next year, CEO Konrad Hilbers said Monday.

Hilbers, speaking to technology industry leaders at a conference in Los Angeles, said Napster still needs to license more major record label music before the business will be ready to go online again.

Napster has been offline since July in an effort to comply with a federal judge's order that the free music trade come to a halt.

Hilbers also said he does not know exactly what the new service will cost users.

Hilbers said Napster will replicate its popular file-sharing service in a secure environment while pressing for licensing deals with major labels.

Napster is still bogged down in a copyright infringement suit filed against the Redwood City-based company by the recording industry.

Whenever Napster's new service does come back online, Hilbers promised the digital song downloads will include technology that prevents unlimited copying and free distribution.

Jim Griffin, CEO of Cherry Lane Digital, said at the conference that the online music industry is not quite ready for prime time. He said the industry still needs a large pool of money and a fair way of dividing those funds up among copyright holders and music publishers.