University officials announced details of a new arrangement with Napster that will give students access to free streaming music and free, but limited, downloads. Songs burned onto a hard drive or compact disc cost 99 cents per song.
Napster's collection of some 500,000 songs will be available in January to some 18,000 students living in residence halls on several Penn State campuses, including the main University Park campus. The service will be available next fall to all 83,000 students throughout the university system. In addition, Penn State faculty, staff and alumni will be offered discounted Napster memberships.
"When I went to search all the different songs that I like, it was very rare that anything wasn't there that I wanted," said Julie Vastyan, one of six students who tested the service. "In my opinion, I think it's a great program. I think the positives far outweigh the negatives with this program."
For some students, though, those negatives — specifically, the fee for regular downloads — are substantial.
"It sounds OK, but when I download a song, I don't want to be limited," said Kristen Marks, a sophomore from Maryland who said she often downloads music free from Kazaa and other peer-to-peer file-sharing sites. "I definitely don't want to pay a dollar a song."
But Joshua Smith, a junior from Philadelphia who has curtailed his music downloads because of difficulties with Kazaa, said he thought the service was a fine way to offer students access without making them pay right away.
"If I like a song, I'm willing to pay to download it," Smith said. "There's no way I'm going to pay a dollar just to listen to a song. But this way, I can listen to it, and if I like it, I can buy it."
That's what both Napster and Penn State were shooting for — a service that would give students the options they need for free, eliminating the incentive to use peer-to-peer file-sharing sites, Napster president Mike Bebel said.
Penn State president Graham B. Spanier would not say how much the university will pay for the service, nor how long the contract would run. He did say that, to his knowledge, Penn State is the first university to make such an arrangement.
Software maker Roxio Inc., of Santa Clara, California, launched Napster 2.0 on Oct. 29, having acquired the Napster brand from the ashes of the pioneer free file-swapping service, which was forced to shut down in 2001 after a protracted legal battle with recording companies.