CTrax, an online music subscription
service provided through Temple, has closed its doors, leaving students who sought a legal alternative to pirating songs in the digital dark.
The service was offered by Temple beginning
last March, providing students with a free trial of its digital media player before asking for a monthly fee at a discounted rate of $3.49. The service was later offered for free by Computer Services.
Discontinuation of the service was announced in a university-wide e-mail sent by Computer Services late last month. The e-mail also stated that a replacement for CTrax is being sought.
“We were left high and dry and we’re looking for an alternative. If we don’t find a way to provide something free, or extremely cheap, [students] are going to find a way to do it illegally,” Timothy O’Rourke, vice president of Computer and Information Services said.
In a letter to 75 university partners, Larry Jacobson, chief executive officer and chairman of Cdigix stated that the company terminated its entertainment media branch to concentrate on educational media.
“It became clear that the future of our business lies in classroom services, not in a legal digital music platform,” Jacobson wrote.
A contributing factor to CTrax’s demise,
according to Jacobson, was students’ “moderate interest” in the service.
Despite ongoing advertising efforts, which included two student marketing representatives who were paid by Cdigix, the service wasn’t as popular as Computer Services expected, said O’Rourke.
“It provided a legal alternative, but I don’t know how successful it was,” he said.
In fact, finding students on Main Campus
who actually used the service was difficult.
A large number of students hadn’t even heard of it.
“I’d be more likely to use [the service] if they actually let us know they have one. If they had some publicity, someone might actually use it,” said Alex Gordon, a graduate student of chemistry.
When Sabrina Schlegel, a junior international business and risk management and insurance double major, heard that CTrax was ceasing business, she wasn’t surprised.”That’s probably because no one uses it,” she said. Speaking from experience – one filled with disappointment – Schlegel said she thought CTrax was great until the free trial period ended and she realized she would have to pay for the service.
“My friend at Penn State had Napster and you could stream music. All the songs [on CTrax], eventually I couldn’t listen to them. Once they made it free, it was stupid,” she said.
CTrax’s termination comes a week after the Recording Industry Association of America announced that it would tighten policies regarding music piracy on college campuses.
The organization recently issued 400 letters to students at 13 universities warning them of forthcoming lawsuits.
The RIAA hopes students will confess to pirating music in order to receive a reduced settlement fee instead of facing court dates and legal penalties.
“There are difficulties in changing the habits of college-aged students who grew up downloading illegal music,” Laurie Rubenstein, a public relations representative for CDigix, said.
But with a stringent anti-piracy policy and network devices to block illegal file-sharing programs, Computer Services has successfully prevented students, especially those living in dorms, from potential lawsuits.
O’Rourke said the university receives a few letters each month from the RIAA accusing students of piracy, but not nearly as many as some other universities. The university takes those letters seriously and disciplinary action can result for those who violate anti-piracy policies.
“This is serious business. It’s serious because it endangers your computer, uses university bandwidth and you’re breaking the law. It’s serious, because it’s wrong,” O’Rourke said.
For students, however, finding an affordable, compatible and legal alternative to piracy is still not easy.Although downloading LimeWire, an illegal program, “fried” his computer, engineering technology major Chris Houck said he would use LimeWire again when he gets tired of buying CDs.
Though monthly subscription services such as Ruckus, which boasts a catalog of 2.5 million songs at no charge to students, and Napster, which offers consumers multi-tiered plans of service, exist, they each have their flaws. Burning CDs costs 99 cents per track and, although both services offer plans that support Windows PlaysForSure-compatible mp3 players, students with iPods are out of luck.
Ultimately, the ease of pirating music
and the expense of purchasing it has a powerful effect on the choice that students make, one student said.
“It’s too bad there’s no such thing as renting music,” entrepreneurship major J. Cuellar said.
Brian Kirk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.