Students at the University of Rochester, in New York, will soon be offered free access to the Napster music subscription service, in a deal aimed at stamping out online piracy.
The university says that 3700 students living in residence halls will be offered Napster's Premium subscription service later this semester, allowing them to stream and locally download an unlimited amount of music form Napster's library of over 500,000 tracks. Permanent downloads, which can be burned to CDs or transferred to mobile devices, will cost the students 99 cents a track, or $9.95 an album.
Picking Up the Tab
The university plans to pick up the tab for the service through the spring semester--or second quarter--of 2005, and then decide whether it wants to dedicate further funding to expand the offer. The university has 8460 students in total.
A university spokesperson declines to say how much the school expects to pay for the service.
Napster premium normally costs $9.95 a month to stream music and listen to commercial-free radio stations, plus an additional 99 cents to burn a track and $9.95 for an album.
In addition, Napster agreed to work with the university's Eastman School of Music to develop ways for its students and faculty to distribute their original content on Napster's network.
The University of Rochester is the second educational institution to sign up with Napster since the service was relaunched by Roxio late last year. The Pennsylvania State University entered a similar deal with Napster in November to offer the service to 18,000 of its students. Three days after the service launched in January, Penn Sate reported that students had made over 100,000 downloads or streaming audio requests.
Penn State's Napster service hasn't gone by without some student complaints that their tuition money could be used for better causes, however.
Both universities have said that the offerings are an attempt to educate students on how to legally enjoy digital music, as opposed to using illegal peer-to-peer sites that do not reimburse artists for their content.
"We know that downloading is fast growing practice among college students and that our campus is no different than any other," says University of Rochester spokesperson Robert Kraus.
Since the deal was just announced the university has not had a chance to receive very much feedback from students, Kraus says, but he does expect that some will question the use of funds. However, he says that the university believes that it needs to endorse action toward legal downloading.
Napster started out as one of the most successful free P-to-P networks, until it was legally shut down amid piracy complaints lodged by the recording industry. Napster assets were then purchased by Roxio to launch a legal, subscription site.
The Recording Industry Association of America has taken a strong stance against online music piracy, filing hundreds of subpoenas against Internet service providers, including universities, and individuals believed to be illegally downloading music.
Kraus says that the Napster deal is not an attempt to shield the University from RIAA subpoenas, however. In fact, both the University of Rochester and Penn State have ties to the RIAA.
Penn State President Graham Spanier serves as co-chairman, along with Cary Sherman, president of the RIAA, of The Joint Committee of the Higher Education and Entertainment Communities. University of Rochester Provost Charles E. Phelps chairs a task force on technology for the national Joint Committee on Peer-to-Peer File Sharing, which counts representatives from the RIAA and Motion Picture Association of America as members.