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Mystery donor gives Stanford free Yahoo music

Students at university will get free year of online music, in Yahoo's first foray into college music plan.

Students at Stanford University will get a year of free digital music, thanks to a gift from an anonymous donor to the college.

Beginning next week, Stanford will join a growing number of other colleges around the country in promoting or providing free access to online music subscription services, aiming to draw students away from legally risky file-swapping networks.

Unlike some other universities, Stanford has declined to pay for students' subscriptions itself, or use student fees to subsidize the costs. But during the program's first year, which the college regards as a pilot project, the costs will be covered by the outside donor's money.

"We did not want to earmark university funds, because this is not part of our research or teaching mission," said Susan Weinstein, Stanford director of business development.

The Stanford service will be the first school music program for Yahoo, which launched its digital music subscription service in May and has sought to attract subscribers quickly by undercutting rivals' prices.

As with other subscription services, Yahoo allows unlimited streaming or downloads of songs to a computer. Unlike its rivals, it also allows subscribers to transfer songs to portable devices for the same price, $6.99 a month. Other services charge a higher price for subscriptions compatible with portable devices, because record labels charge a higher wholesale rate for those rights.

In Stanford's case, at the end of the trial year, students' monthly subscription rates will go up to $1.75 a month for the basic Yahoo subscription, and $4.75 a month for the version compatible with portable devices, Weinstein said.

The university chose Yahoo after evaluating it along with several other services, and seeing it get the best review from students, Weinstein said.

Although news of the anonymous donor's support quickly sent speculation winging toward Stanford alums and Yahoo co-founders Jerry Yang and David Filo, Weinstein said the money would have applied to any music service, and was not tied to use of the Yahoo program.