The University will evaluate student use of Napster this semester to determine whether the legal music downloading service will be continued next year.
Since the beginning of last semester, 7,100 students living in residence halls have had access to a free subscription of Napster. About 32 percent of those students use the legal music downloading service, said Alexa Kim, director of technology operations for Student and Academic Support Services.
“If continued in the future, Napster would be a hefty cost to the University,” Kim said. “The University probably has more important financial priorities.”
This year, an unnamed alumni donor funded Napster’s cost to the University. Kim said she did not know the total cost of Napster. Other schools have paid upwards of $100,000 for the service.
How the University will continue to fund Napster in future years is one of many factors impacting the decision, Kim added.
Other factors contributing to the University’s decision include the number of students using the service and feedback from students through surveys, Kim said.
“Napster is still under consideration for next year. Nothing’s been decided yet,” Kim said.
Students who use the Napster services can listen to more than 750,000 songs available in Napster’s music library.
If students wish to transfer songs onto a CD or MP3 player, they must pay a fee of 99 cents per song or $9.99 per album.
One of the main reasons GW decided to offer Napster was due to concerns about the legal repercussions of illegally downloading music, said Linda Schutjer, a GW lawyer.
In March 2004, the Recording Industry Association of America, a music trade group, filed suits against three GW students who downloaded music on illegal networks such as KaZaA and Morpheus.
“In terms of whether our students are being looked at by the RIAA now, the RIAA was very candid about saying they aren’t looking for students from schools with Napster agreements,” Schutjer said. “This was certainly RIAA’s message last year before we started the agreement.”
Schutjer added that even if students continue to illegally download, the RIAA is not likely to investigate GW students because the University offers a legal downloading service.
Freshman Faith Fried said she is satisfied with Napster and wants the University to continue offering it to students.
“I paid $20 and bought 20 songs I love. You can’t get a CD tailored to you other than through Napster,” Fried said.
Other students said Napster is not a service worth continuing. Freshman Melissa Hooper said she uses a different downloading service, called Bear Share, instead.
“I don’t use Napster, but I used to,” Hooper said. “It’s like my old boyfriend, I found better.”
Calling the service “impractical,” freshman Justin Salztman said the University is “wasting” money on Napster.
“Yes, I have it downloaded to my computer, but no I do not use Napster regularly,” Saltzman said.
Other schools that use Napster services include Cornell University, Middlebury College, the University of Miami, the University of Southern California and Wright State University.
At Miami, school officials decided to start offering Napster services to students in August 2004, after the undergraduate student president lobbied for a music downloading service comparable to what other universities were offering.
“Students who use it, love it,” said Gilbert Arias, Miami’s assistant vice president of student affairs.
Napster is currently offered to full-time undergraduate students at the University of Miami. Many requests have been made by graduate, law and medical students to expand the program to include them, Arias added.