Penn State and Napster-Local News Article...

in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited January 2014
and my response to it.

First, here is the news article about the "landmark" Penn State University and Napster music serice deal.

PSU-Napster: birth of a filesharing experiment


By Bryan Farrell

Collegian Staff Writer

There wasn't a football game or even a parade, but last weekend was a homecoming nonetheless.

Since its birth in a college dorm room nearly six years ago, Napster has been a word-of-mouth sensation, on the cover of Time Magazine, the defendant in a lawsuit filed by Metallica and bought by a German media conglomerate, only to become a complete and utter business failure. But after Napster filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June of 2002 and was presumably left to die, the infamous name and unmistakable logo have been revived.

The deal signed in November between Napster, owned by parent company Roxio, and Penn State saw fruition last weekend as the digital music progenitor returned to the community that first embraced it: the college campus.

And as students take time to test out the software, they can rest assured that every CEO of every major technology -- and music -- related business is watching and waiting for their opinions.

"We're the first in the nation, or world even, [to have this partnership]," said Sam Haldeman, assistant to the associate vice provost for information technology services, a.k.a. the man who was commissioned to test and choose the online music service for Penn State.

But there's more behind Haldeman's statement than sheer bravado. It's a statement that points out Penn State's unique position, and it isn't just the techies who are paying attention.

Congress has praised the university in its efforts to combat illegal file sharing, and NBC Nightly News scheduled a segment discussing the deal.

Meanwhile, on campus, many questions were raised involving Penn State's interest in file sharing, possible collusion between Penn State President Graham Spanier and members of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and the cost of the service to students.

While the university is not releasing very specific answers to these questions, there is even less knowledge regarding the future of Napster and the legal downloading of music.

Student opinion

"I think my overall impression was that it was very similar to the Napster of old and other present services like Kazaa," Micheal Pieri (freshman-engineering) said after testing the software last week. "The only suggestion I would have is to not have to pay for downloading the versions of songs that you would be able to burn on a CD. But that kind of goes against the whole point, so I don't think that's going to happen."

Pieri's answer is not an uncommon one. Almost every student asked by The Daily Collegian for an opinion responded positively, but with one exception: when it came to extra fees.

"I love it. You don't have to download a song to listen," Carlie Dice (freshman-science) said. "But one thing that is frustrating is some songs you can only get 30 seconds of. It is usually newer artists, who they want you to buy a CD for."

That isn't the answer Penn State, Napster or the RIAA is looking for.

"We are concerned about what we perceive to be a wide-spread illegal phenomenon, while educating students about the legal and moral implications and ramifications of copyright infringement," Haldeman said.

But perhaps more specifically, as Matt Jackson, assistant professor of telecommunications, pointed out, the real thing these businesses want to find out is: "Once they graduate, will students continue to use a legal service, or will they go back to what is free?"

Jackson likened the situation to Penn State's current contract with Pepsi, which has been the university's soda of choice for the past eight years.

"Pepsi pays extra to be the only soda with the hope that when students graduate, they continue to buy it," he said. "That is taking advantage of a controlled atmosphere. This is a bad thing to the extent that students who would use another service continue to use Napster because it is all that is offered."

But it seems, at least for now, students are still able to find an alternate means.

"It's not going to prevent me completely [from pirating music]," Dice said, having spent a week with the program. "I have another service I use to get the songs I can't find on Napster. But for the most part, I'll be a hardcore Napster fan."

Cost and availability

"The off-campus students are pissed off," Julia Flynn (junior-accounting) said. Due to the threat of lawsuits for Kazaa users, Flynn and her friends have been looking for a legal way to download music, but so far they have had little success.

The same goes for Jennifer Lemanski (senior-public relations), who complained that she would never get a chance to use the Napster service before graduating at the end of this semester.

"I'm not going to have some lawyer breathing down my neck, saying I have illegal files," she said. "I would use a legal means over an illegal one anytime."

Even though the interest to move toward legal file sharing exists, off-campus students will have to wait until next semester or try it on their own, for the regular price of $9.95 a month, if they are graduating. This is an issue that has been met with much objection.

"A common complaint from some students is that, 'We're not getting something we pay for,'" Haldeman said. "Off-campus students are not paying for a service they do not use. We will pay Napster only for those off-campus students who do use Napster. For this semester, non-student funds are paying for the service during this first phase of the Napster trial."

However, Haldeman and some Penn State officials have not been clear what the non-student funds are or where they come from; others said they are unaware of funding details.

And while this sounds like a great deal for everyone involved, Haldeman's explanation brings up another point that has consistently been raised against the Napster agreement.

"It is not a valid answer [that Penn State got a good deal]," Jackson said. "It could be a very good deal, but money is still going from Penn State to Napster. Instead, it could be going to new technology funds or a refund to students. The university is being very disingenuous [when saying students don't have to pay]."

Haldeman, however, represents the university's philosophy toward the project, which has been one of taking advantage of a situation.

"We recognized that students were in dire desire of music, and we had the leverage and power to do something about it," Haldeman said.

Here is where the skeptics point out that Spanier is co-chair of the Committee on Higher Education and the Entertainment Industry along with RIAA president Cary Sherman, not to mention Penn State trustee Barry Robinson, who also splits his administrative time as senior counsel for corporate affairs with the RIAA.

Major concerns

"Some of the criticisms [against the deal] stem from ignorance of laws and a bias towards viewing the RIAA and artists as tyrannical millionaires," Haldeman said.

Brian Morrison (junior-film and video), who has posted fliers around campus that read, "Do You Know About Bad Napster?" would have to agree that Haldeman has his cynics pegged.

"File sharing, whether or not people realize it, is a revolt against the system," Morrison said. "Essentially, the recording industry has been exploiting people for a long time, and file sharing is an answer to it."

Morrison said the university should have never gotten involved in the first place because the students, not the record industry, should be its first concern. He said he believes Penn State is taking money from university operations, such as the Microsoft software that is no longer available for free to students, and putting it in the recording industry's hands without providing an actual product.

In 2001 the record industry reported a 10 percent decrease in sales and a slew of figures pointed to online piracy as the culprit. The RIAA said that one peer-to-peer system was responsible for 1.8 billion unauthorized downloads per month and that the number of burned CD's worldwide was most likely equal to the number of CD's sold at retail.

"Basic economics says they need to lower prices [to solve their decreased sales], but the recording industry would rather manipulate the system and tell us what to listen to [with programs like Napster]," Morrison said.

And that seems to be the bottom line when it comes to criticisms of the Napster deal.

"My major concern is if Napster is catering to the Big Five [record labels, which are Universal Music Group, BMG Entertainment, Sony Music Entertainment, EMI Group and Warner Brothers Music] or offers unprofitable deals to other artists," Jackson said. "That would be horrendous, and the university should have no part. They should have a stipulation that Napster offers the same deal to secondary artists and opens its service on a non-discriminatory basis."

Jackson, aside from teaching communications law, is the manager of an independent band. More out of interest than practicality, he has tried contacting Napster about its policies toward non-nationally distributed artists, but has yet to get a response.

"It is unclear whether Napster offers a non-discriminatory deal," he said. "The university should not sign a deal with any company that restricts choices of available music."

Further griping

As of Saturday, about 6,000 of the 18,000 students who live on campus have registered to use the Napster software. And despite a project that has never been attempted before by anyone, let alone the technology department at Penn State, the overall atmosphere in Old Main was one of optimism.

"We expected some difficulties since we're the first to do this," said Bill Mahon, university spokesman. "But so far everything is very optimistic."

According to Haldeman, only 20 complaints have been received, all of which he described as simple technical errors, such as registration difficulty and wrongly configured Internet settings. But neither Mahon nor Haldeman received complaints from Mac users, whose systems are not compatible with the Napster software.

"The issue is which songs are available, where the service can be used and who can use it," he said.

Napster currently adds 10,000 to 30,000 songs every week and offers more than 500,000 total tracks, but the company is not to be blamed for the absence of a specific artist, Haldeman said. It is up to the artist to give permission.

Despite faculty and staff inquiry, they will not be able to use the service until next semester, but any student with a campus residence and a computer that runs on Windows 2000 or Windows XP can. That means Macintosh users are out of luck unless they are willing to dish out $200 for Microsoft's Virtual PC with Windows XP program.

"Mac users are beginning to understand that this is turning into a Microsoft world," Haldeman said. "I have a Mac, and I'm not too happy about it either. I speak to Napster and mention that people not just want, but need a Mac platform."

Mac users will probably debate the coming of a "Microsoft world," as the current leader in digital music is Apple with its iPod. The university also has Macintosh computers in almost every lab on campus -- more than 20 locations.

"It is inappropriate and the university should insist that the service comply with all platforms, including open source ones like Linux," Jackson said.

But if there is any credence to Haldeman's statement about a "Microsoft World," it is supported by the fact that Napster is associated with Window's Media Player 9 and that it is the featured music service on Windows XP Media Center Edition 2004.

As with most of the questions surrounding the Penn State Napster deal, the answer could just as easily be left to coincidence. Take the matter of Spanier and Sherman being on the same committee or trustee Robinson, who told the press he had no part in the deal.

"That is how politics work," Jackson said. "How can you work out solutions without representatives from the recording industry? Spanier's job is to represent the university and Sherman's is to represent the RIAA. As long as they aren't colluding in background deals, and I don't think they are, it is intentional in a good way."

Non-digital sales

"I think it's great," said Mike Negra, owner of Mike's Movies & Music, 210 E. Calder Way. "I can't compete with the option of free. If people like the digital format, so be it. There could be a shock when they get a bill and don't have anything physical to show for it. And that might send them back to the physical world. Now it's competitive."

Greg Gabbard, the owner of City Lights, 310 E. College Ave., agreed that the Napster deal was a positive step toward curbing illegal file sharing. He also said he thinks that the service is geared toward the selling of single tracks, which is something his store doesn't deal in.

"If it's just singles, then there's no competition," Gabbard said. "Artists are getting paid, and that's the bottom line."

According Negra, for this to all work out, illegal peer-to-peer services must be blocked. And Penn State has taken measures that would do so. Starting next fall, a firewall will be implemented on the university network to protect it from spam e-mails and viruses. But that system will also work to prevent students from sharing files illegally.

While no one is questioning that the university is within its legal rights as an Internet service provider (ISP) to protect its network from illegal activity, it is also under no pressure to do so.

"The legal question is whether or not Napster users create a liability for ISP," Jackson said. "In general, ISP is not responsible for information passing through its system. On the other hand, it is not supposed to knowingly allow illegal conduct. In general universities are not liable, and that's why many of them didn't try to shut down [file sharing programs]."

Jackson said he firmly believes that students have undoubtedly been involved in copyright infringement and that Spanier is legitimately concerned about ethical issues, not just bullied into them by friends in the music and film industries. But with that said, Jackson still remains a skeptical onlooker. The RIAA, Congress and other universities can praise his efforts all they want, but Jackson has what he considers to be a better model for what is "praiseworthy."

"Penn State is to be commended for trying to find a way [to combat illegal file sharing]," Jackson said. "But something more commendable is the pursuit of knowledge, freedom and free speech on campus. MIT took a strong position on the issue and said it had no intention of censoring its students, and I think that is a noble position to be praised."

The future holds no bounds

"This is a pilot program, and whatever we can take out and learn from it is great," Haldeman said. "Should it succeed, residency won't matter. Student's won't have to worry about signing up for phone, cable or music service, and they won't have to ask mom and dad for money for CD's."

Haldeman also reminds students, not to scare them but to inform them, that the penalties for copyright infringement are severe. Violators can be punished by up to three years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

And while the law is the law, there are people like Brian Morrison who point out that sometimes the law can be taken advantage of.

"If you remove file sharing, it takes us back to what's on the radio and MTV," Morrison said. "Everything is geared to getting us back in the mode of having the record industry in control."

But for now, the control lies in the hands of Penn State students.

My response:

Napster is a growing, or should I say shrinking concern?

Below I have taken the time to lay out my thoughts and concerns, I hope you

take the time to consider what I have spent time analyzing.-Though, a high

school student, I am.

I am a very concerned, soon to be enrolled student at Penn State's

University Park Campus. I am a senior at the local State College High

School. My main concern deals with a collegian article I found on a google

search for, "PSU Napster."

In the article I saw some glaring and obvious, very serious problems with

what was said. Not what was said or printed by you, but with the complete

dismissal of Apple's presence in the legal music downloading market. There

was just a lack of acknowledgement about Apple as a whole, which is

especially strange considering Apple is becoming to music what Microsoft is

to Operating Systems.

Apple Computer commands a 36% market share lead in all of portable digital

music players sold, with the iPod. The iPod also garners a healthy 50% of

the total revenue in that market segment. People want to put their

downloaded music onto the most popular music player, which is undoubtedly

the iPod. Apple?s iPod has received praise from every major news publication

in the country; PC users (not just Mac users) love the iPod. But what is so

bad is that this Penn State deal with Napster does not allow for music that

is actually paid for by the student, to use the iPod. Napster does not

support the iPod's file format structure. Instead, Napster uses Microsoft's

inferior audio file format, known as WMA (Windows Media Audio). Apple uses a

much more pristine codec, called AAC 128kbps (Advanced Audio Codec), which

sounds as good as an MP3 file encoded at 192 kbps.

While I agree that the deal Penn State has in place with Napster is good in

theory, it doesn?t do what it should be meant to do. It does not give fair

usage rights, or enough of them to the student, which is who the service

should be catering to. Apple?s iTunes and iTunes Music Store is far and away

a more user rights and user friendly oriented method of obtaining legal

music files and managing them. Whereas Napster is just a program from which

you can browse their selection of music files, iTunes is a jukebox

application that has the iTunes Music Store integrated within it.

What boggles my mind is that Penn State is using Napster, which is to this

point, a complete failure. They have so far sold just 5 million songs, as

Apple approaches 50 million; Napster appears to be a very weak second place

distributor. Even this report from the San Jose Mercury News spells serious

trouble for the fledgling Napster. Besides losing money, several executives

left and a round of layoffs began on Wednesday February 18.

Apple has all of the tools in place to be the best option for everyone right

now, they truly have the ?every man solution? available in the form of

iTunes, the iTMS, and iPod. Apple struck another blow to Napster, when a

deal that was originally meant to happen between Napster and Hewlett

Packard, got turned on its head. HP was going to sell all of its Media

Center PC?s with Napster preloaded onto its desktop, a practice similar to

how Microsoft packs Internet Explorer as the default OS on most PC?s that

ship. The deal was supposedly a $250,000 payment from Napster to HP for

Napster to be the default store on HP?s machines. Without notice or

explanation from HP CEO Carly Fiorina however, HP sent back the check to

Napster. And instead, Apple and HP have teamed up on the deal that was

originally Napster?s. The reason why? Apple is reselling its iPod music

player to HP, starting this summer and having iTunes as its default software

on Media Center PC?s, which will all be available in over 100,000 locations

around the world. Thus, Apple?s presence in the music market just expanded

its distribution channels about 50 times what it was capable of before.

Why do I care and why am I concerned? Personally, I do not want to sit on my

computer and stream a song to listen to it. I don?t want to be paying for

Napster in my technology fee, which is a part of my tuition. I do not want

an inferior way of obtaining, managing, and listening to my music to be

forced on to me, at least I am forced to pay it if I wish to enroll at PSU.

What people fail to realize, is that they can listen to a song on Napster,

but have to pay for it (just like on Apple?s service) if they want to own


Why, when there is a very legal and far more advanced and seamlessly

integrated way of doing what Napster does, am I made listen to the sour note

that Napster really is? I want to use my iPod, I want to have fair rights to

my music that I pay for and own forever. With Apple, I can download a file

for 99 cents, mix and manage playlists with it in iTunes (or make playlists

ON the iPod itself), burn CD?s, burn DVD?s to archive music files, share it

with Rendezvous Networking on up to 3 authorized computers on my local

network, and best of all?transfer my files to the world famous iPod.

It is not about the ?streaming music? to the student, it is not even about

the legality to most people. The only way to compete with illegal music

sharing is to truly compete with it. If the original Napster taught us

anything about music, it is that the Internet was made for music

distribution. This iteration of Napster does not do music distribution the

right way, it does not offer choice, and it does not fulfill the masses

desire to use the iPod.

Consider the questions: What do people want to do with their music, how do

they want to listen to it, and how do they want to obtain it?

People want to use their music in other computer applications like iMovie or

Adobe Premiere, burn CD?s or transfer the music to a portable digital


People want to listen to their music on their computer, within a jukebox

program, not streaming. They want to listen to it in CD form on a CD player

with a burned CD of their bought music that they have fair rights to. More

increasingly, people want to use the diminutive and venerable iPod to listen

to and manage their music with.

People really want to obtain music legally, but the only company to do legal

music right, has been and is Apple. Nobody wants to stream music, nobody

wants to pay a monthly rate for their music, and EVERYBODY wants to use the

iPod. Thanks.

And finally, his response to my email:


Thanks for your very intelligent comments on the Napster issue. We are

planning to do a follow up article in which we will give Apple a chance to

add their two cents. Hopefully you will see many of your concerns get

addressed. In the mean time, stay informed and involved.

-Bryan Farrell

Sign In or Register to comment.