True, finding the ever-elusive free lunch is virtually impossible. But a 19-year-old college student did create a way to get free music by establishing an online network last fall for users to share their own files in exchange for access to other user’s files.
“It’s awesome,” said Laura Keys, a junior psychology major and avid Napster fan. “I get all my music for free and I don’t have to pay those overbearing music labels my hard-earned money.”
But according to university administrations across the country, it’s not free for everyone.
Free MP3s cost valuable space on computer networks on campuses across the nation and the globe. In some cases, according to a recent article in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Napster-addicted students are accounting for more than 40 percent of a school’s network traffic.
An MP3, which is short for the Moving Picture Experts Group Audio Layer 3, is an audio data-compression file that allows users to send music files over the Internet. Napster software allows users to log on to its servers and make their personal MP3 collections available for download by other users, usually taking up anywhere from three to 10 megabytes of disk space.
To free up their network resources, many colleges and universities such as Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Bloomsburg University, Kutztown University, the College of New Jersey and even Edinburgh University of Scotland have blocked the main MP3 culprit, web site Napster.com.
Students on the list of over 60 colleges and universities aren’t taking the loss of their Napster lightly. Claiming the universities’ blocking of Napster is a violation of the First Amendment right to free speech, students at Napster-deprived Indiana University established Students Against University Censorship (SAUC).
With over 16,000 signatures posted on an online petition, SAUC hopes to collect even more signatures and spread their anti-censorship stance.
Will Temple University eventually join the growing list of universities banning Napster.com?
Currently, “Temple does not have an official policy on Napster,” said Pamela Chaplin-Lobell, a Help Desk Manager in Academic Computer Services.
Although there is no official policy concerning Napster, Chaplin-Lobell stressed that the Temple University Computer Usage Policy addresses certain issues surrounding the Napster debate.
According to the policy, distributed to all students after receiving a Temple e-mail account, Temple students “may not use resources in such a way as to create or constitute, in the sole determination of the Office of Computer Services, an unacceptable burden on resources.”
Temple also deals with possible copyright infringements. The policy states that students “may not use resources in connection with activities prohibited by any applicable Temple University policy or by any applicable laws, ordinances, rules, regulations, or orders of any public authority having jurisdiction including, without limitation, those concerning: trademark, copyright, and other intellectual property.”
Colleges and universities aren’t the only organizations displeased with the phenomenal growth of Napster. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) filed a $20 billion lawsuit last December for violations of both state and federal copyright laws and lost royalties of the “pirated” music.
The RIAA argues artists are not collecting royalties from the exchange of their music, thus infringing upon copyright laws. Napster argues its patrons are simply sharing their personal libraries; therefore, no copyright infringement takes place.
Late last month, in an effort to appease college administrators who have already blocked their site, Napster created and released an updated version that was specifically designed to take up less space on computer networks.
Thus far, only Indiana University has begun to test the new version.
Numerous schools have already re-evaluated their bans on Napster and have withdrawn their bans on the site. Yale University, Gannon University, the University of Southern California and the University of California at Santa Cruz have all reversed their policies in reaction to the backlash of Napster’s patrons on their campuses.
Napster’s legal implications have yet to be determined.