Rapper Ice-T last week became one of the first name-brand artists to offer music for sale on Kazaa, a controversial clone of the defunct Internet file-swapping service Napster. The hip-hop star and actor is bypassing major record labels to distribute digital copies of his latest album through his own operation, Final Level Entertainment.

Users of the Kazaa Media Desktop software (www.kazaa.com) can purchase a downloadable version of Ice-T's new album, Repossession, for $4.99. The album contains 19 tracks by his band, Sex Money & Gunz. Ice-T also plans to sell physical CDs from his own Web site at the same price; conventional retail distribution will follow this summer.

Ice-T said he had signed an Internet distribution deal with Woodland Hills, Calif.-based Altnet, which markets music through Kazaa. Since last year, Altnet has offered some pay-per-download files on Kazaa using Microsoft's digital-rights management software to provide copyright protection. The protected files appear with a gold icon alongside the many unprotected files traded free on Kazaa.

Altnet and Ice-T did not disclose terms of their deal, but Ice-T released this statement: "With technology today, artists don't need to rely on the workings of a traditional label to get their music to consumers, and without the label being in the middle to get a stake, it enables artists like myself to generate more revenue through selling product ourselves."

Free file-swapping networks remain under fire from the recording industry for allegedly promoting piracy. Last week, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry announced that worldwide sales of recorded music declined 7 percent last year, the third year in a row the industry suffered a drop. The 2002 fall was steepest in the United States -- 10 percent. The recording industry blamed the continuing slide on "unauthorized file sharing on the Internet" and "massive proliferation" of copied CDs on personal computers.

Blogs, Block by Block

Scores of people have jumped on the blogging bandwagon in the Washington area, and now Maureen Thorson is putting them on the map -- the Metro map, that is.

Thorson, 24, has created a guide to folks in the Washington region who write Web logs, a kind of online journal also known as a blog. Her "DC Metro Blog Map" plots local bloggers on a Metrorail map of the Washington area, with a link to each blog appearing at the Metro station nearest to the author's home.

"I have between five and 10 new blogs come on board each week," says Thorson, an Annandale resident who attends Georgetown University Law Center. New Web scribes ask to be added after finding her map through links on other blogs or Internet search engines.

The site currently links to about 220 local blogs; Vienna currently ranks as the most blog-heavy Metro station, with 31 sites linked there. The other blogs, with names like "Bureaucrat by Day" and "Washington Interns Gone Bad," are fairly evenly distributed throughout the region.

Thorson said she got the idea from similar Web maps that track the blogging communities in New York and London. She launched her site after putting out a call for Web coding help on her own blog; a programmer in Brookland cooked up the interactive Metro map in return for a plug on the site.




E-mail Leslie Walker at walkerl@washpost.com.