Universities deal with file sharing

Michele Decamp and Michele Decamp

Theoretically you can still download for free, but, as one anonymous North Carolina State University student discovered last year, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) will have something to say about it.

Students also have to avoid decoys on sites like Kazaa that appear to be versions of Ashlee Simpson’s single “Pieces of Me” but are either shortened versions of the song or just the chorus looping over and over again.

Rumors have also circled that some downloads contain viruses or that some CDs are equipped to download a virus into your computer if you try to upload the songs for future copies.

However, some universities are trying to combat illegal downloading, perhaps responding to the 135 lawsuits the RIAA handed out as of April this year to students, faculty and staff at 35 schools.

Now if only NCSU can learn from its neighbors.

Wake Forest University is one of 20 schools this year that will provide their students with free or reduced-cost downloading off RealNetwork’s Rhapsody service.

This trend began with Penn State, which offered students half a million songs to download off the new Napster for free through the university.

While students at Wake Forest, Tulane and the other 18 schools offering the Rhapsody service will have to pay for the songs if they want to keep them after the school year, they will still get several months of music listening pleasure without the RIAA threatening to empty their meager saving accounts.

Another North Carolina school that has decided to promote legal downloading is our Gothic neighbor Duke University.

Duke stunned their student body (and pissed off quite a few upperclassmen) when they announced that they would be distributing 1,650 iPods to their incoming freshmen. The iPods came stocked with an audio recording device (so they can tape their professors’ lectures). The iPods also came with access to a special Web site that gave each student ten free downloads on iTunes.com. Students can also download lecture notes on their little white devices.

All this is because Duke wants to continue its commitment to integrating technology into the classroom as well as hopefully getting students hooked on a legal downloading site.

NCSU officials have not rolled out any pilot programs involving iPods, and they are not jumping on the free downloading bandwagon. However by finding some way to stress legal downloading they could avoid a scene like the one they encountered last year when the RIAA asked university legal officials to disclose the name of a student who had been using her web space on the NCSU network to share files.

Obviously NCSU can’t afford iPods for its freshmen. It would be wise for the largest university in the state to acknowledge that students are constantly listening to downloaded music and wouldn’t it be nice if it was free.

NCSU could save themselves dealings with the recording industry and earn a few brownie points with current and prospective students by following the trend of the aforementioned schools.

If anything, the UNC system could do what the University of Michigan system decided to do, offer services like the Rhapsody system for a discounted price. That way students only have to pay $2-3 for a membership, and they get the lowest prices in the legal downloading industry, 79 cents per song.

Rather than just sending out warning e-mails or letters to the campus community that illegal downloading is wrong, the university could send us the message that they realize it’s a problem and they will try to do what they can to fix it.

It doesn’t cost anything to discuss the options with some of these downloading services.

Not to mention that a potential 29,000 more clients might convince them that discounted or even free downloads might be to their advantage.