Q&A: Penn State's new online music service with Napster

November 06, 2003

Penn State University has announced that it is going to revolutionize the music world with a ground-breaking agreement with the online music service Napster. The University has provided a list of common questions and answers that should address many of the features of this new service, and why the University has taken this initiative.

Why is Penn State providing a music downloading service to its students?

Penn State is concerned that some of its students don't understand that downloading music over computer networks without purchasing copyright permission is both unethical and against the law. The University believes it has a responsibility to do something to change that. Penn State will continue to try to educate students on this issue and will continue to enforce its strong policies against copyright infringement. At the same time, the University wants to provide legal alternatives to illegal downloading. This service is directly aimed at helping students to understand the issue and to provide them with an alternative.

When will the service begin?

The service will launch as a pilot program on January 12, 2004 -- the first day of Penn State's spring semester. It will initially be available to on-campus residence hall students at residential Penn State locations.

Is Penn State the first higher education institution to implement a service like this?

Yes, we believe that Penn State is the first college or university in the world to implement such a service for its students.

How many digital music service company products were considered by Penn State before the decision to partner with Napster was made?

The University considered a large number of online music providers and actually tested several of them before choosing Napster.

Why did Penn State choose Napster?

In the end, Penn State chose Napster to be its online music provider because they offered the widest number of features that the University thought were important to students.

What is the cost of this service to each Penn State student, and how will it affect tuition rates?

Students will receive this service for free as a part of their overall information technology-related services that are partially funded by the University's Information Technology Fee. There will be no increase in the fee as a result of this service.

Is this service accessible on all computing platforms (i.e. Windows and Macintosh) and different types of Internet connections?

With the current pilot program being tested this spring, the service is only available to Windows 2000 and XP users. With the addition of certain software, it will also run on Macintosh computers.

What music services will be offered through this arrangement?

The service is Napster's "premium service" that is fully described on their Web site: http://www.napster.com According to Napster, this service provides: downloading of an unlimited number of songs to a user's computer; streaming of songs while the user is connected to the Internet; listening to Napster's preprogrammed radio stations; and participation in Napster community message boards.

What is "tethered downloading" and how does it work?

Tethered downloading is effectively a rental of music and is very similar in concept to renting DVDs from a video store. Actually, it is a rental that continues as long as the monthly fees are paid -- in this case either by the University or the student. Tethered downloading enables a user to log in to the Napster service from any computer that runs the Napster program and access those songs that have been downloaded. Songs downloaded in this manner can reside on the hard drive of no more than three computers at a time.

Will students be able to save music files to hard drives and/or burn them on to CDs via this service?

Thousands of tethered downloads are available and may be saved on the student's computer hard drive. Students also may purchase permanent copies of songs from Napster and then burn them to CDs or transfer them to a Napster-supported MP3 player via the service.

How much will it cost to burn a CD or download to my hard drive if I really like a song and want to keep it in my collection permanently?

The cost for a permanent download is currently $0.99 per track.

Will students be able to download movie files in the future?

At present, there are no such plans to offer movie files in the future. As technology evolves, however, Penn State will be closely monitoring its impact on the entertainment industry and the demands of our students.

How does Penn State plan to obtain student feedback on this pilot program?

Penn State ran a number of focus groups with students to determine which aspects of online music were most important to them. We also had some students use the Napster service to get their feedback. As the pilot program reaches thousands more Penn State students, we expect their feedback to help us tailor the service even more.

Do you worry that the first couple days back in school students could shut down the university network systems because of high demand for music? How will you deal with this?

The University is taking a number of precautions to minimize the impact so that it does not disrupt normal network service. We do expect network use to be considerably higher immediately following the launch of the service. However, because of the design of the University's network, Internet traffic demands from the residence halls -- where this pilot program will be launched -- do not impact utilization from other areas within the University.

How will the University and the industry deal with students who continue to download music illegally once this new service is in place?

Penn State has set a nationwide example in enforcing copyright laws as it pertains to network computing. Enforcement of these laws and University policy on network usage will continue at least as strongly as it has in the past.

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Last Updated March 19, 2009