August 24, 2004

Napster's 750,000 Songs Free on Campus

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Beginning this fall, Cornell University will bring the notorious but finally legal Napster to campus as a free service to students.

In a move to curb illegal downloading and protect the interests of intellectual property, Cornell will introduce the Internet music downloading service to students in a free, yearlong trial program. The special deal between the University and Napster will give students the full benefits of paying members. The only cost to students will come if they wish to retain a track permanently or burn it to a CD or MP3 player, upon which they will be charged 99 cents.

The Student Assembly will decide in the fall of 2005 whether to renew the service, at which point it will be paid for out of a $20 activity charge to students. Normally, a subscription to Napster’s service costs $10 per month.

Dean of Students Kent Hubbell stated in a Cornell News press release, “This is an effort to explore constructive alternatives. It’s kind of a commercial and technological experiment to come up with a method by which this generation of young people can legally obtain music and learn about the appropriate use of protected intellectual property. After all, students my well need these tools to protect their own creative work.”

The project began last year when Hubbell and Vice President for Information Technologies Polley Ann McClure began to explore similar programs at other universities. Napster had already put such programs in place at Penn State University and the University of Rochester.

A three-way partnership between the S.A., McClure and Hubbell, and CIT was formed to put a deal in place. In February of 2004, Napster came to campus as a three-month trial membership for the 23 members of the S.A.

“By and large, the 23 kids on the Student Assembly loved it,” said Nick Linder ’05, who was S.A. president at the time. “We just didn’t think it was time to bring Napster as a regular service. Twenty-three [people] is not the greatest representation, so we decided to continue it as a year-long pilot with little or no cost.”

Students will have access to Napster’s mammoth library, which boasts a bevy of more than 750,000 songs. The service includes commercial-free Internet radio stations, six decades of Billboard magazine’s chart information and an online magazine. According to Bob Bordeau, assistant director of marketing for Cornell Information Technologies, tether downloads should take under a minute, while streaming downloads will take longer. Napster does not, as certain other services do, provide access to movies or television shows.

Napster’s service is only compatible with Microsoft Windows XP and 2000 operating systems. But, according Bordeau, between 93 and 94 percent of all Cornell students use a Windows-based operating system, with the remaining six to seven percent using Macs. However, Bordeau confirmed that of students who own MP3 players, between 50 and 70 percent use Apple’s iPod. “We are continuing to explore third-party software alternatives for Mac users,” Bordeau reassured.

“We talked to iTunes, but they were unwilling to change their business model,” Linder said. “What’s important for students to know is that you can access this service anywhere at any time. If you go home for break, you can use your home computer, go to Napster’s website, and log on with your I.D. and password,” said Linder. “As long as you have this service and are a Napster member, you can listen to the songs for free. [Students] shouldn’t think that because you click the download button, you will be charged. The only way you’ll have to pay is if you want to put it on a CD or MP3 player.”

Students will have free access to Napster’s music library so long as they are at Cornell. However, upon graduation or departure from the University, students will no longer be able to download unless they pursue Napster’s standard membership. Additionally, they will no longer be able to listen to the songs they downloaded while at Cornell unless they purchase them.

“I think it’s a great idea to give the music to college students,” said Nolan Rogers ’07. “It gives us a good chance to check out the new Napster and see if we want to use it in the future.”

According to Linder, the legality of using Napster and avoiding lawsuits from the Recording Industry Association of America heavily influenced the decision to test the service. “There have been legal issues with students at Cornell, just like at other schools,” he said. “With these lawsuits, you’re not talking a couple hundred dollars, but several thousand — tens of thousands of dollars. For a student, that’s an enormous setback.”

The cost of the pilot program will largely be covered by corporate sponsors, with the additional balance being covered by an unrestricted gifts fund in Cornell’s Division of Student and Academic Services. A new cache server will be purchased to facilitate the service, and will be used to store the most commonly downloaded songs, reducing the amount of bandwidth used on personal computers.

“Hopefully, the cache server will eliminate the need [for students] to go outside to other download services like KaZaa,” Bordeau said. “It will store about 92 percent of the music downloaded, so using up bandwidth shouldn’t be a problem. It will eliminate a lot of processing time on PCs.”

If the Napster service is not continued after the year, the cache server will be redeployed elsewhere, Bordeau said.

Archived article by Zach Jones
Sun Associate Arts & Entertainment Editor