University cans free Napster program

Students who want to download free music will be on their own this year.

The University ended a contract last May with the file-sharing company Napster that allowed students to set up a subscription and download music files for free. The University had signed two one-year contracts with the file-sharing company and did not renew a contract for this year.

Alexa Kim, executive director of Technology Services for Information Systems and Services, said the decision was based entirely on student usage.

“Very few students used the program,” she said. “After looking at the usage statistics and the cost, we decided that it wasn’t a very good investment.”

GW first signed a contract with Napster in fall 2004 that allowed students to access free music throughout the school year. A student had to purchase a song or album from Napster if they wished to keep the song past the end of the year or transport it to an MP3 player.

Budget constraints also played a large role in the decision, as the funding for the first two years had come from an alumni donor. Kim said that in order to continue the service, funding would have had to come from spending cuts elsewhere in the University.

Last year GW had an $8.2 million gap between revenue and expenses leading to budget cuts across many areas of the University for this fiscal year.

Napster is not the only casualty of the budget cuts, as last week the University said the GW Reads program, that once distributed copies of the Washington Post, New York Times and USA Today to residence halls would be cut due to budget constraints

Avery Kotler, Napster’s senior vice-president for Business and Legal Affairs, expressed regret at losing GW’s partnership.

“We certainly liked working with GW,” he said. “I think that even if less than half the student population is using Napster, you are still providing something that touches more people than most other programs.”

Kotler also said that Napster has not experienced any problems with other universities.

“A vast majority of schools are renewing their contracts,” he said. “On most campuses, we’ve found that the program is extremely popular and the people who use it use it a lot.”

The University of California, California State University and the University of North Carolina signed deals with Napster in 2005 to have the company provide its university-based subscription services to their entire systems.

Brown and American Universities have also recently inked deals with Napster, according to the company’s Web site. Other Napster schools include Penn State, Vanderbilt and the University of Miami.

Kim said future deals with groups that can provide downloadable music are not out of the question.

“We’re going to keep an eye on the issue and usage statistics and make decisions accordingly.”

The University had hoped to decrease music piracy by providing a legal option to download music. In 2004, the Recording Industry Association of America filed suits against three GW students accused of illegally downloading music.

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