Prompted by a slew of lawsuits filed by the Recording IndustryAssociation of America (RIAA), colleges and universities arecreating unique ways to combat digital piracy. The latest effort isto provide students with a legal alternative for downloading musicvia the Internet.
Jan. 12, Penn State launched a pilot program offering studentsfree access to the new, recording industry-sanctioned version ofNapster as an alternative to illegal file-swapping services likeKazaa.
According to Bill Mahon, a public information officer at PennState, the program was the brainchild of University PresidentGraham B. Spanier and currently provides about 13,000 students inuniversity dormitories with access to about 90 percent ofNapster’s music files.
According to Mercury News, Spaniersaid, “We truly believe this could be an importantfirst step in changing the way our students access music — andperhaps ultimately movies — and a great service that we want toprovide for them.”
Mahon said the university will pay anundisclosed fee to coincide with the information technology feestudents pay for access to the campus computer network. Studentswill only receive a bill if they purchase a track to burn on CDs ortransfer to a portable music player.
Last October the RIAA sent a letter to 2,300administrators that warned of legal consequences if schools failedto halt copyright infringement.
In response, colleges and universities, including HowardUniversity, have been scrambling to comply with RIAA regulations,choosing to impose limits on the amount of data traffic studentscan use, removing offenders from networks, and placing firewallsagainst peer-to-peer file sharing programs.
Although Penn’s program is the first ofits kind, Mahon notes that it’s been successful.”It’s a good deal and it’s gone extraordinarilywell,” Mahon said. “We’ve had thousands ofstudents downloading songs with no threat of lawsuits or viruses.It’s a nice clean service.”
Since the program’s implementation, theUniversity has noted a significant drop in the illegal file-sharingactivities on the school’s network. Next fall, Penn State islooking to expand the program to provide its 24 campuses with theservice.