March 5, 2008

Ruckus Downloads Increase

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Half a year after Cornell began its partnership with Ruckus, a college-only digital entertainment service that offers free, legal media downloads, 5,842 current Cornell students have registered—about 93 percent of on-campus residents or 43 percent of the total undergraduate population.
“The numbers from Ruckus show that it is doing very well…over 750,000 songs have been downloaded,” said Robert Bourdeau, assistant director of marketing for Cornell Information Technologies.
The service allows registered users access to over 3.2 million licensed music tracks, as well as other forms of entertainment, for free, according to Ruckus’ website, although fees are required for transfer of the digital media to portable devices. At the end of last August, Cornell entered into the agreement with Ruckus, which holds similar partnerships with over 200 other universities, allowing students faster download speeds and access to more content. Since November of last year, over 1,000 new users have registered.
“For us, there is no financial obligation. The contract lays out things that [Ruckus] would like us to do for promoting it, such as sending emails to the students,” Bourdeau said.
According to Bourdeau, any person will a “.edu” email address can access Ruckus, but the University’s agreement with the company “allows [Ruckus] to make it a much more efficient service.”
While Cornell had previously held a contract with Napster, the agreement lapsed last year when the Student Assembly decided not to continue with it, according to Kent Hubbell ’67, dean of students. When Ruckus came to the Cornell campus to make a proposal, Hubbell and Polly McClure, vice president of information technologies, agreed a contract would benefit students.
“It was legal, and it was our hope that it would perhaps mitigate the amount of illegal file-sharing on campus. We don’t know if that’s the case, but we hope that the service would help,” said Hubbell.
Cornell’s agreement with Ruckus is one of many initiatives to decrease illegal downloading and educate students about its consequences. According to Tracy Mitrano, director of information technology policy at Cornell, University policy does not allow monitoring of computer networks for content, so concrete trends in illegal downloading are unknown. As Hubbell also mentioned, Cornell cannot measure in numbers how programs such as Ruckus have decreased illegal usage. Nevertheless, the number of settlement letters for copyright infringement sent to Cornell in its capacity as an Internet service provider has recently increased, giving the University a tangible reason to crack down illegal downloading.
“Now the stakes have risen, and we’ve determined that more education very early on was necessary,” Mitrano said.
When the University receives settlement letters from the Recording Industry Association of America, they are forwarded to the user as the RIAA requests. Students have the opportunity to settle with the RIAA, typically by paying a $3,000 fee. The University itself then requires these students to complete and pass a copyright education course through eCornell, a for-profit distance education program affiliated with Cornell.
Beginning this coming school year, the University will take further steps to educate new students in an effort to prevent illegal downloading.
“This year, when students first authenticate to the network, they receive a one-page notice about copyright infringement … there’s [also] something on the hard-copy paper you receive with your NetID. I will speak at student orientation and parent orientation and on the new student website, there will be information about [our new course],” said Mitrano.
The course is a light version of the lengthier one currently in existence for students who have received notice or settlement letters regarding illegal downloading.