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Online Music Goes Back to School

By Cynthia L. Webb
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 24, 2004; 11:58 AM

In this era of high-speed Internet access, the back-to-school season features college students streaming back into their broadband-wired dormitory rooms, booting up their computers and letting gigabytes of digital tunes flow like a waterfall -- and for many students, the question of whether the downloading violates copyright laws plays second fiddle. However, a legal, affordable alternative has a chance to thrive in this potentially huge market, or at least that's what the digital music business and the universities are hoping.

The industry wants to get a sales bounce by wooing students with steep price cuts, while universities are eager to strike deals to cut down on illegal downloading. Roxio's Napster has already been busy making deals with universities. Now, Seattle-based RealNetworks Inc. is entering the fray and will offer discounts on its subscription service through pilot programs at two U.S. universities. Instead of ponying up $9.95 monthly to access Real's streaming-only Rhapsody service, University of California at Berkeley and University of Minnesota students will pay just $2 to $3 a month. They'll still have to pay download fees to legally keep any of the service's 700,000 songs, although the college moves are part of Real's fierce campaign to take business away from Apple's iTunes music service. A major feature of the effort is Real's special price of 49 cents per download through Labor Day; typically, it charges 79 cents a tune.

_____About Filter_____
Filter looks at the day's top technology news through snapshots and analysis of what the world's media outlets are covering. Washingtonpost.com's new Mon.-Fri. feature is penned by technology reporter Cynthia L. Webb. If a technology story breaks, a company falters or triumphs, or there's a new trend in technology, Filter wants you to know about it.

_____Filter Archive_____
Dragging the Net for Cyber Criminals (washingtonpost.com, Aug 25, 2004)
Google Yields More Than Fistful of Dollars (washingtonpost.com, Aug 23, 2004)
Software Doesn't Break Laws... (washingtonpost.com, Aug 20, 2004)
Google's IPO: Grate Expectations (washingtonpost.com, Aug 19, 2004)
Tech Goes for Gold in Athens (washingtonpost.com, Aug 18, 2004)
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USA Today reported on the trend of universities inking deals for students to download legally. "Colleges are hotbeds of music piracy. To give students a legal alternative, digital music meisters are wooing campuses with generous deals on Internet music-on-demand. Penn State struck the first deal with Napster in January. The trial program was so successful that many other schools took notice. Now, when students return to school at Penn State and many other top colleges, they'll find free, legal digital music as the latest amenity, alongside cable TV and campus concerts," the paper said. "About 25 of the nation's 3,300 colleges will offer music to their students on campus networks this fall. An additional two dozen or more are finalizing deals in coming weeks. 'There are very few things in life that are more important to students than music,' says Penn State President Graham Spanier. 'Any school that buries its head in the sand on this is not serving its students well.'"
USA Today: Students Score Music Perks as Colleges Fight Piracy

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that colleges are getting more bullish in their crackdown efforts. "Until recently, many universities had taken a softer approach, giving students lectures on copyright issues at orientation and having them sign pledges not to download music without paying for it. Students caught downloading or uploading music, largely through [Recording Industry Association of America] warning letters, usually got a slap on the wrist," the paper said. "Heading into the new school year, more campuses are tackling their downloading problems aggressively. Some are taking steps to block access to music file-sharing sites or limit the amount of a school's bandwidth that students can use. Others are making deals to provide online music for their students through legitimate music services."
The Wall Street Journal: Stop the Music! (Subscription required)

Here's Real's spin on its college strategy: "By offering students legal alternatives to music piracy, we're investing in the future of the online music industry," Richard Wolpert, chief strategy officer, said in a statement. Cliff Frost, director of communications and network services at Berkeley, said in canned remarks: "We're excited to be offering our students an easy-to-use online music service where they can access their favorite tunes legally," Frost said. "We see this as an excellent opportunity to help our students get in the habit of consuming music in a legal manner."

Shih-Pau Yen, deputy chief information officer at Minnesota's Twin Cities campus, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune: "I think the University of Minnesota is in a better position legally if we have put a legal music service in front of students." The paper noted that the recording industry could hold universities legally responsible for allowing students to use school computer networks to download copyrighted music for free. The Associated Press reported that "[Real's Wolpert] said the company worked with record labels to make the cheaper service feasible. He said it will still be profitable. Wolpert said the company also hopes to attract more universities to the deal."
Star Tribune: U of M Offers Online Music for a Song
The Associated Press via washingtonpost.com: Real Networks to Offer Discounted Music (Registration required)

Real said Berkeley students can get Rhapsody for free through Oct. 31, when it will be offered at a discount, while Minnesota students will get discounted services starting early next month. The San Francisco Chronicle had more details on the Berkeley deal, in which students will pay $2 a month for the online music subscription service. "Berkeley decided to provide Rhapsody, which operates from San Francisco, to help alleviate two other problems caused by file sharing. First, university officials were being swamped dealing with official notices from the entertainment industries about students violating federal copyright laws. The recording industry has also sued individual students around the country, including four at UC Berkeley. With each copyright notice or lawsuit, 'the university bureaucracy has to fire up, and it takes a lot of time,' Frost said. 'It's sort of negative work. It's not productive.'"
The San Francisco Chronicle: Online Music at UC

The Star Tribune explained that earlier programs have helped cut illegal downloads. "Penn State ... has seen a decrease in illegal student downloads through the university network since it began the experiment in January, said Phil Leigh, an analyst with Inside Digital Media in Tampa, Fla. Penn State uses a discounted version of the now-legal Napster online music store. "And more, from the St. Paul Pioneer Press: "While Rhapsody lets users burn songs to blank CDs, the students must pay the same 79-cent-per-song fee as others. And the deal isn't related to RealNetworks' RealPlayer Music Store, which allows users to download individual tracks and load them on digital-music players such as Apple Computer's iPod. Still, the new service fills a student need. ... 'In the 21st century, students listen to music through their computers, through the Internet,' [Yen] said. 'It's part of their lives in dorms. We have to provide something for their habit,'" the paper reported.
St. Paul Pioneer Press: U Students to Get Discounted Streaming Music (Registration required)

Meanwhile, Real's 49-cents-a-song campaign is going well. The company said it has sold more than a million songs since launching the deal last week, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The Wall Street Journal: RealNetworks Price Cut Boosts Sales (Subscription required)

Colleges Do Some Window Washing

Microsoft's highly anticipated update of a package of security fixes to its flagship Windows XP operating system is not making the grade with a number of colleges. The "decision to release a major upgrade for its flagship operating system in the same month that hundreds of thousands of students are reporting to college campuses across the nation is causing a major headache for the higher education community," washingtonpost.com reported. The Service Pack 2 upgrade "could conflict with other applications running on university networks, and a related concern that thousands of students attempting to download the software could bring campus computer networks to a standstill, technology administrators at some universities have taken steps to block an automatic service that downloads the software."
washingtonpost.com: Windows Upgrade Causing Campus Headaches (Registration required)

The Apple of Students' Eyes

Apple's iPod digital music player has been such a hit with students that they're also gravitating to the company's Macintosh computers, USA Today reported. The paper noted Apple has helped push the trend by offering students a $200 iPod discount when they purchase an Apple laptop. "In Tucson, at the University of Arizona's on-campus store, salesman Jeff Guba says Apple sales are way up from last year, when four of 10 computers sold were Macs. This year, it's six of 10.Now that Microsoft Office is available for Macs, Guba says, students can work with many Windows programs, such as Outlook for e-mail and Word for documents," the paper reported.
USA Today: Students Crazy About iPod Follow The Music To Apple Laptops

Maybe They Should Call It 'Little Brother'

A worm that invades webcams is wriggling its way across the Internet, CNET's News.com reported yesterday. "The Rbot-GR virus follows a fairly traditional malware route of exploiting Microsoft security vulnerabilities and installing a Trojan horse on infected machines. However, the worm also spies on users by taking control of their webcam and microphone, then sending images and soundtracks back to the hackers, according to antivirus firm Sophos," the article said. "As well as getting an insight into homes and businesses across the world, the worm allows the malware writer to take a look at information on the infected machine's hard drive, steal passwords and launch denial-of-service attacks." Sophos posted more details on the pesky worm.
CNET's News.com: Virus Alert: Spies Prize Webcams' Eyes

Still Haunted by the Bunny

Google Inc. is flying high from its initial public offering, but the company's co-founders still can't shake their controversial interview with Playboy magazine. The magazine posted parts of the interview that did not appear in the magazine on its Web site yesterday, the New York Post reported. "In it, Sergey Brin and Larry Page reveal more about the inner workings of their company. The full-length article threatened to delay the IPO when it appeared during the so-called 'quiet period' that bars executives from touting their companies ahead of an initial offering."

None of the new excerpts were particularly sexy. One outtake, picked up by the Post: "We don't have as many managers as we should, but we would rather have too few than too many," Page said. "We want a thin structure. It could be too thin. The downside is that people don't get the attention they need, especially the more junior people." Hard to believe boring statements like this could pique the interest of the Securities and Exchange Commission again.
New York Post: Google Staying Mum as Playboy Posts Outtakes

Filter is designed for hard-core techies, news junkies and technology professionals alike. Have suggestions, cool links or interesting tales to share? Send your tips and feedback to cindyDOTwebbATwashingtonpost.com. (Yes, those spammers have been having a lot of fun with my e-mail address lately.)


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