- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 24, 2004

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.

Ohio University, Wake Forest, Tulane and Purdue are expected to forge agreements with music services this year. Marietta College and the Rochester Institute of Technology may have agreements in place by the end of the academic year.

Penn State University was the first school to reach agreement with an online music service. A limited number of students there have used Napster since January, when the school began a pilot project. Hundreds of thousands of music files have been downloaded by students using Napster, and access will be increased to all 75,000 students this month, Penn State President Graham Spanier said.

“I think if we tried to take it away at this point there would be a rebellion,” he said.

Agreements between universities and music sites could protect their students from lawsuits, but it is unlikely they will reduce music piracy, said Eric Garland, chief executive officer of BigChampagne, a Los Angeles company that tracks file sharing.

About 8.3 million people were online at any one time in July using peer-to-peer services like Kazaa and EDonkey, up from about 6.5 million in July 2003, according to research from BigChampagne.

“It makes sense that colleges want to limit their liability,” Mr. Garland said. “I don’t think they will have a net deterrent effect. File sharing is so ingrained that it’s never going to be eliminated.”

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