As the University of Michigan receives notices from the
Recording Industry Association of America of an intent to subpoena
nine students for illegally sharing music files, students at Penn.
State University are being allowed to download songs using a free
service provided by Napster, an online-music service.

Penn State and Napster rolled out a music service for students
last week, giving them free and legal access to more than half a
million songs through Napster’s 2.0 Premium service. Students
can download music files to their computers for free but must pay
99 cents to write a song to a CD or to upload it to an mp3
player.

In addition, students access 40 streaming radio stations, 60
years of Billboard music chart information and an online
magazine.

Though this Napster service normally costs $9.95 a month,
students do not bear any additional costs. Instead, Penn State is
using money collected for an existing technology fee to pay for
it.

But making such a music service available to a large number of
students can potentially slow down networks that are also used for
academic purposes.

To determine the impact such a service will have on campus
networks, the service is being offered as a test to the nearly
18,000 students living in residence halls at Penn State. After the
testing period ends in the spring, any necessary changes will be
made and the service will most likely become available to all of
Penn State’s 83,000 students next fall, according to a
written statement released by Napster.

Universities’ Internet connections are extremely
attractive to music downloaders due to the high-speed access
provided on campuses, Penn State spokesman Tysen Kendig said.

“Students were demanding (a music service) through their
illegal downloading of files,” Kendig said. “We wanted
to take a leading role in finding an alternative
solution.”

Even though the Napster service solves the problem of
downloading music illegally from a file sharing service such as
Kazaa, information technology departments must worry about
preventing the network bandwidth from being severely hindered. Penn
State has taken measures to deal with this issue.

“Napster set up a remote server so that a vast majority of
songs will be accessed from an in-house server, separate from our
academic server,” Kendig said. “There’s really no
risk of bogging the network.”

Other downloading services such as Kazaa make networks sluggish
because they don’t have dedicated servers.

Obtaining music tracks through illegal means such as Kazaa can
lead to downloading poor quality songs — often, such music
services will provide songs from users’ personal computers
— and can even lead to lawsuits from the RIAA. The Napster
service allows students to acquire superior quality songs without
having to worry about lawsuits, because the service does not
infringe on any copyright laws, Napster said.

Some students at the University said they want a free and legal
music service made available to them though they feel the costs may
not be worth it.

“I would use it but I don’t know how worth it it is
for our tuition money to be spent on (a music service),” LSA
junior Jessica Cohen said.

Other students find that downloading music illegally is a habit
that is here to stay, so that people can put songs on CDs and mp3
players for free.

“I would use (a legal music service),” said LSA
senior Jonathan Welch. “I know that for most of my friends,
downloading is popular but people will still download
illegally.”

Though Napster would not confirm the formation of similar free
and legal music services on other universities’ campuses,
Napster has been contacted by hundreds of students and institutions
who want such a service, according to a Napster spokesperson.

While the RIAA was consulted before PSU reached an agreement
with Napster, Kendig said, the association wasn’t directly
involved. Still, the RIAA believes the agreement will set an
example for other institutions to follow.

“The agreement between PSU and Napster is the first-ever
of its kind and represents a milestone in the evolution of the
legitimate digital delivery of music and other creative
works,” the RIAA said in a written statement. “It
undoubtedly will not be the last. Penn State has laid down the
marker for other colleges to follow.

 

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