Having been born in an environment of higher education, Napster is heading back to college.
Starting next semester, Penn State University students will be able to take advantage of the new Napster at no additional charge. The partnership was announced at a conference Thursday, and it attempts to stem the tide of rampant illegal file-sharing believed to take place at colleges and universities due to students' access to high-speed Internet connections.
Approximately 18,000 students living in residence halls across a dozen PSU campuses, including the main one in University Park, will be given complimentary memberships to the premium service of Napster 2.0, which re-launched as a paid digital-music service last week (see "Hello, Kitty: Napster Is Back"). The service, which ordinarily costs $9.95 per month, gives them the ability to stream an unlimited number of songs from Napster's library of more than 500,000, as well as be able to download any song with limited playback options. Referred to as "tethered downloads," these songs may be played on up to three personal computers and are accessible both online and off. Songs may be burned to CDs or transferred to a portable digital-music player, like Napster's own player, for 99 cents apiece.
Napster's return to the dorms, where Northeastern University freshman Shawn Fanning launched a beta version of the software four years ago, begins January 12. Later next year Penn State plans to offer the service to 83,000 people throughout the university system.
"This will be the first step in a new, legal approach designed to meet student interest in getting extensive digital access to music," Penn State president Graham Spanier said. "We have already set up student focus groups at Penn State who have been testing the Napster service. We will essentially deploy thousands of testers in the spring semester to use this program and give us feedback before we roll it out for even wider student use in the fall of 2004."
Students will not be paying anything extra for the Napster service. The cost will be taken out of the school's information technology fee, which is already in place.
Spanier, along with Recording Industry Association president Cary Sherman, chairs the Joint Committee on Higher Education and the Entertainment Industry, a group exploring the legal, educational, legislative and moral issues related to illegal peer-to-peer file-sharing. During a forum in early September, Spanier said that some schools, including Penn State, were looking into striking a deal with a legitimate file-sharing service for their students (see " 'Online Piracy 101' Required For Freshman at Some Schools").
The Penn State-Napster partnership comes a week after the Massachusetts Institute of Technology disabled an intra-campus music-sharing network developed by two students, who used the campus television network to make accessible songs on demand. Because it used an analog network, and not a digital one, to distribute the music, the students believed their creation to be free from the laws concerning the digital distribution of music.
Within a week of its launch, the music industry complained and MIT took the service offline until its legality could be explored.
For complete digital music coverage, check out the Digital Music Reports.