Students who try to illegally download music over the university network now have a legal and less frustrating alternative.
Ctrax, a program similar to Napster and iTunes, is Computer Services’ solution for students who want to get music over the Internet, but who are prevented from doing so by university policy and network filters.
The program allows PC users to download an unlimited amount of songs to their hard drives, and is being offered free of charge throughout February. Those who wish to continue using the service after the trial expires will have to pay a monthly fee of $3.49 for students and $5.99 for faculty and staff. There is an additional cost of 89 cents for each song users want to copy to CD or portable devices.
The service was announced in a university-wide e-mail sent by Computer Services on Jan. 25. Within four days, more than 3,000 users had registered and downloaded more than 150,000 songs.
Temple is one of nearly 40 other colleges utilizing Ctrax, which is produced by Cdigix Inc. Temple’s response to the introduction of the software has been one of the most successful the company has seen, according to Mike Keller of Computer Services, who led the search for legal file-sharing on campus.
“We are among the best in terms of the number of folks that have signed up,” Keller said. “The company wrote to us and said that’s about the highest they’ve seen in the first four days.”
Adam Bergman, a freshman, expressed positive feedback about his experience with Ctrax, as well as his intention to sign on after the trial ends.
“The CDs are pretty good prices,” Bergman said. “I was looking at a Talking Heads Greatest Hits CD, which is like $20 everywhere, but $10 on the Web site. I got almost 10 CDs and I just downloaded the software this morning.”
Illegal file-sharing has been a contentious issue in college campuses across the country. Computer Services at Temple announced a strict policy against the practice in 2003 and implemented network devices to block peer-to-peer programs, which have been effective but not foolproof due to the constant creation of new peer-to-peer programs.
According to Tim O’Rourke, Vice President of Computer Services, Temple receives about one or two letters a month from the Recording Industry Association of America to notify the school of violators. To date, no Temple students have been sued, which O’Rourke attributes to the school’s aggressive policy.
“Students are prone to download music illegally,” O’Rourke said. “We know it, the music industry knows it, and it’s just something we see all the time.”
In addition to legal issues, file sharing causes significant technical problems by clogging up network bandwidth and loading student’s computers with viruses and spyware.
“I wanted to get my students something so they had a legal alternative,” O’Rourke said.
The decision to use Ctrax was made by investigating setups at other schools and considering options offered by various providers. Ctrax was chosen for its price, platform and reputation.
“They [Cdigix] have over 50 percent of the market, so we’re in good company,” Keller said.
Apple users are unable to use Ctrax because of the company’s digitial rights management.
Files downloaded on Ctrax are encoded to prevent sharing with unauthorized computers. Macs are formatted so that the only encoded files allowed to play on them must be downloaded from iTunes. Cdigix is currently looking into ways of making Ctrax available to Mac users.
“Apple has made the decision that they won’t let anybody participate in their brand of digital rights management,” Keller said. “We would love, and Cdigix would love, to support Macintoshes.”
“Even though iTunes was considered, we didn’t consider it to be in the same class because it doesn’t allow you to hear an entire track of music unless you purchase,” Keller said.
While the service is available to all Temple students, only 20 percent live on campus, according to the university’s 2005 common data set. The other 80 percent are uninhibited from using peer-to-peer file sharing programs on their own networks, and legal threats from the RIAA have not been enough to deter many of those users.
Some students are deterred by the cost and the 89-cent charge for transferring files to music players.
“You’re already paying $3.49, so you should be able to do whatever you want,” Michael Martin, a freshman, said.
O’Rourke said he has no idea what the user base will be, but added that he doesn’t quantify the service’s success.
“If I’m offering something to students legally, then it’s successful to me,” O’Rourke said.
Andrew Thompson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.