Colleges offer students music downloads

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An increasing number of colleges and universities are trying to curb music piracy by giving students access to digital music from ITunes, Napster and other legitimate sites.

At least 20 schools have agreements to let students download music, according to a report submitted yesterday to Congress by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Joint Committee of the Higher Education and Entertainment Communities.

More of the nation’s 3,300 colleges and universities are likely to form alliances with music sites as higher education tries to keep students off peer-to-peer networks like Kazaa and prevent them from becoming ensnared in the legal net cast nearly a year ago by the record labels.

“This is a trend that will continue to proliferate,” RIAA President Cary Sherman said.

Some schools, including George Washington University and Pennsylvania State University, will allow free music downloads. Others are charging modest fees.

The 7,100 students who will live in residence halls at George Washington University this year can sign up for song files through Napster beginning Sept. 1, when the semester starts.

Three students at the school were sued by the record labels earlier this year. Record labels have sued 158 persons at 35 colleges and universities.

“It remains to be seen [whether the program curbs music piracy on campus]. Certainly that’s the hope. But there have to be alternatives. It’s not enough to say ‘stop doing it because it’s wrong,’” said Alexa Kim, director of student and academic support services-technology communication at George Washington.

The school has a one-year agreement with Roxio Inc.’s Napster, which helped start the file-sharing revolution in 1998 before the record labels had it shut down in 2001. Students can stream music or download it to computers. If they want to burn a song onto a compact disc or transfer a file to a portable device, they must pay standard rates of 99 cents a song.

The University of California at Berkeley and the University of Minnesota each signed agreements this week with RealNetworks Inc. to make digital music available to students.

Under a one-year agreement with RealNetworks, based in Seattle, students at the University of Minnesota will pay a subscription fee of $2 to $3 a month for its online music service, called Rhapsody, depending on the length of the subscription period. RealNetworks typically charges consumers $9.95 a month.

Students there also must pay to burn songs onto a disc.

All 50,000 students at the University of Minnesota can sign up for the service, whether or not they live on campus.

About 30,000 students at the University of California at Berkeley will have access to digital music this semester.

DePauw University, Northern Illinois University, Yale University, Cornell University, the University of Rochester, the University of Southern California, the University of Miami, Middlebury College, Vanderbilt and Wright State University also have agreements with online music services.

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