Music download deals with colleges fall on deaf ears

Playing ball with record companies, colleges experimented with providing free access to subscription-based music rental services. Kids say no way.

It seemed like a good idea - colleges partnering with subscription-based music download services to put a lid on illegal downloading while providing an affordable, legitimate option. But now the votes from students are in and the verdict is ... thumbs down.

eSchool News reports that more than 120 colleges have partnered with subscription-based services like Napster and Ruckus but the experiment has fallen on deaf ears. A major negative: students can keep their songs only until they graduated. "After I read that, I decided I didn't want to even try it," says a senior at an Ithaca, NY college.

Typically, schools would buy subscriptions for students, driving down costs by negotiating volume discounts and getting subsidized by the record companies. But students simply are not tolerating such restrictions as having to burn CDs in order to transfer to a computer (presumably, the CD then goes into the landfill) or not being able to use the services with Macs and iPods.

"People still want to have a music collection. Music listeners like owning their music, not renting," says Bill Goodwin, 21, who graduated in May from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Colleges such as Cornell, USC and Purdue are either discontinuing the service or changing to a new provider. And students don't seem to mind.

"There hasn't been an overwhelming response to keep it," says Kwame Thomison, Cornell's student assembly president. "Students [who] enjoyed the service enough can pay for it themselves."

The reasons for instituting the partnership were two-fold. Universities were concerned that the recording industry might try to hold them liable for their students' copyright violations, and the large amount of bandwidth used by movie and music sharing chokes computer networks. An added benefit is that colleges can use filtering programs that can identify users who are misusing school networks. >BLOCKQUOTE>"The bandwidth that I recovered saved us $75,000 a year in network costs," says Matthew Jett Hall, assistant vice chancellor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.

The Recording Industry Association of America says it has been happy with the progress these programs have made so far. "Universities tend to move not all that quickly to do things like this, so it's really quite an achievement," says RIAA President Cary Sherman.