November 21, 2003

Penn State Pays for Students' Music

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This January, Pennsylvania State University students will be able to stream all the audio they want from the newly revamped Napster 2.0, a division of Roxio, at no charge. Penn State will be the first university to make an arrangement with a pay-for-play service allowing students to have access to all the music that Napster has available.

“Penn State recognized that students are being hunted down by the recording industry,” said Ian Rosenberger, president of undergraduate student government at Penn State. “They realized that it was valuable that we get a program that would protect the students.”

Lawsuits

The Recording Industry Association of America, a trade and lobbying group representing the five major record labels, has been hostile to peer-to-peer file-sharing programs, including the original Napster, Kazaa and LimeWire, claiming that Internet file sharing is reducing CD sales and hurting record companies’ business.

In the past, the RIAA has attempted to stop file sharing by shutting down the programs, as was done with Napster and Audiogalaxy, and suing university students who were maintaining network browsing sites, such as chewplastic.com at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and wake.princeton.edu at Princeton University. Earlier this year, the RIAA also sued individual users on popular “p2p” networks, such as Kazaa. At the same time, there has been a growing number of legal pay-for-play programs, including iTunes, Rhapsody and Napster 2.0.

According to Rosenberger, Penn State chose Napster because “we felt that Napster offered the best selection of songs and the best user ability for students, and we were able to get the service for the least amount of money.”

The agreement allows Penn State students to use the service with no increase to the costs of Internet access. Students are able to download all the streaming audio in Napster’s database for free until they graduate. After graduation, they will lose the songs unless they pay 99 cents to download a song. Students are also unable to burn the songs onto CD-Rs without paying a 99-cent fee for each song.

The service will be available to Penn State students living in residence halls for a one-and-a-half-year trial period.

“If this is something that is going to work, we’ll keep it,” Rosenberger said. “If it doesn’t fit the students’ wants and needs, we will have to be able to change it.”

At Cornell, both students and faculty are paying attention to what Penn State is doing, though there have not yet been any plans made to bring a service like this to the University.

“Yes, we are certainly watching [Penn State], and yes we would be delighted to do something like that if there is interest [among the students],” said Tracy Mitrano, director of information technology policy and computer law policy at Cornell.

The Student Assembly has not yet addressed the issue at this point.

“I think that the concept is a novel idea, but before I take a stance, I would have to do a little more research,” said Nick Linder ’05, president of the S.A. “I certainly wouldn’t rule it out as a possibility for something that the S.A. will look at in the spring semester.”

Though Rosenberger was enthusiastic about Penn State’s actions, he said that the Napster service would not solve all of the conflicts between file sharers and the RIAA.

“Students don’t see themselves as criminals, but the RIAA and Congress do,” he said. “It is also important for us to be critical of the industry. Is it time to re-examine copyright law? Yes, definitely.”


Archived article by David Hillis