Napster makes gains in colleges

The now-legal song service signs up six new universities for its cut-rate campus music plan.

John Borland Staff Writer, CNET News.com
John Borland
covers the intersection of digital entertainment and broadband.
John Borland
2 min read
Napster, in its latest guise as an ambassador for legal music on campus, said Monday that six universities have signed up to offer its digital song services to their students.

The company, a division of Roxio, has taken a lead in approaching college administrators to offer cut-rate subscriptions to its legal digital music service in an attempt to entice students away from popular file-swapping networks like Kazaa.

Cornell University, George Washington University, Middlebury College, University of Miami, University of Southern California and Wright State University all are working to create their own on-campus version of the service, the company said. Pennsylvania State University and the University of Rochester have already started the service.

"These colleges and universities are focused on providing their students with a great service that offers a legal and ethical alternative to peer-to-peer file sharing," said Roxio Chief Executive Officer Chris Gorog. "Napster offers the digital music experience that most closely resembles that of peer-to-peer (networks), but in a legal setting."

The drive to put legal digital music services on campus stems largely from meetings held last year between the Recording Industry Association of America and an influential education technology policy group in Washington, D.C.

That group, which also has studied other ways to limit the sometimes devastating impact of file-sharing on campus networks, solicited proposals from companies like Napster for on-campus music services. Napster has been the only one to date to make public announcements of such a service.

Napster is offering students access to its subscription service, which ordinarily provides the company's full catalog of music for about $10. Songs can be downloaded, but cannot be played if a subscription lapses.

However, the company is offering substantial discounts to universities. According to officials at Ohio University, the service would have cost each student just $3 a month, under one company offer. That school has not yet publicly signed on with Napster.

The Ohio offer was first reported by The Register. Napster has not otherwise discussed the financial terms of its campus services.

Different schools are handling the payments in individual ways. At Pennsylvania State, the first school to launch the service, administrators said the subscription charges would come out of information technology fees that students were already paying, and would not require the school to boost fees at all.

However, some students protested, saying they did not want their mandatory fees to be used for digital music.

In a statement Monday, Pennsylvania State University President Graham Spanier said the program has been successful and that students at satellite campuses will be able to use the service beginning in the fall.

"Penn State's students have been thrilled with the Napster experience, downloading as many as 100,000 songs each day," Spanier said. "We see our Napster implementation as central to our effort to create a more student-centered university while at the same time offering an alternative to music piracy and copyright infringement."