February 9, 2009

Ruckus Closes, Limits Access to Free Music

Print More

Ruckus, the digital entertainment service, which the University had provided to students to promote free, legal music downloading, announced Friday on its website that it is shutting down. For the more than 5,800 Ruckus subscribers at Cornell, the closure could mean the loss of access to part or all of their Ruckus music libraries.
“Unfortunately the Ruckus service will no longer be provided. Thanks,” is the message that students will find on the site, which provided free music downloads for its subscribers and was designed exclusively for college campuses.
Dean of Students Kent Hubbell ’67, who was a key supporter of the University’s adoption of Ruckus in 2007, stated in an e-mail he was unaware of the site’s closure until The Sun contacted him last night.
The University signed a contract with Ruckus in October 2007. While the contract did not commit the University to any financial obligations, it laid out Ruckus’s marketing preferences and suggestions for promoting the system to students.
Ruckus replaced the University’s previous contract with Napster, after the Student Assembly decided the Napster agreement was an inefficient use of the Student Activity Fee.
5,842 Cornell undergraduates were registered on Ruckus as of May 2008, at which point the site provided access to over 3.2 million licensed tracks with over 750,000 downloads.
According to Polley McClure, vice president of information technologies, the University has no official plans to replace the service.
The University received no forewarning from the company that it would stop operating, she said.
The Ruckus network, founded in 2004, began as a subscription service that catered to 82 universities nationwide. The system switched to an advertising-supported model in 2007 in an attempt to increase usage and profit.
Students at Cornell were able to downloaded tracks free of cost as long as they were enrolled in the University.
According to TechCrunch.com, students’ music from the Ruckus network that has not passed its “renew date” will still work, but music that has expired will no longer work because the company’s Digital Rights Management licensing serve has shut down.
Providing the student body with free subscriptions to the Ruckus network was the University’s attempt to curb illegal downloading and copyright infringement on campus.
McClure said she hopes that the end of the Ruckus service will not increase instances of illegal file sharing.
The Sun reported in 2007 that the University does not monitor activity of computers on its networks for content, so official numbers for illegal downloads and legal downloads using the Ruckus system are unavailable.
Some students chose not to subscribe to the Ruckus service, perhaps in part because it was not supported by Macintosh operating systems. Other students lamented that Ruckus charged a fee to allow students to reproduce the freely downloaded files onto a CD or to transfer them to an MP3 player.
Rachel Weinstock ’12 attributed the site’s failure to these stringent limitations.
“I think if the University wants to decrease students’ illegal downloading they should find a more widely accessible service with less restrictions,” she said.
“I’ve heard about Ruckus, but it didn’t work for Macs so I never used it,” Jon Correll ’12 said.
The details behind the company’s shutdown are unknown, but similar websites that provide free, legal downloads have also failed. Cdigix closed down its college serve in early 2007, according to paidContent.org.