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Media Education

University Tests Legal File Downloading System 260

Posted by timothy
from the another-one-that-is dept.
philospher writes "Dorm students at Northern Illinois University are testing a legal file downloading service. It is made by Ruckus Network, and was developed by a group of MIT students. NIU pays 5$ a month per student, and the students can get music, movies, TV shows, local content and community features. Sounds a lot better than having the RIAA sending you a court summons."
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University Tests Legal File Downloading System

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  • Yay... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geminidomino (614729) * on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @12:54AM (#10053223) Journal
    Force students to pay whether they want the Uni to sell their souls to the RIAA or not.

    Nothing new here. Move along.
  • Good use (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nos. (179609) <andrew@NospaM.thekerrs.ca> on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @12:56AM (#10053234) Homepage
    At least we're starting to see the Industry start using the technology to everyone's advantage instead of trying to quash it. Of course I'm in Canada and I'm pretty safe right now from the letters (mind you, I haven't downloaded an MP3 in a LONG time either). Of course with Morpheus's recent win in court, this sort of 'legal' P2P system may not catch on as well as hoped. Have to admit though, if I knew I could get high quality, legal MP3's I'd probably consider paying the $5/month.
  • by b0r1s (170449) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @12:58AM (#10053250) Homepage
    $5/month is nothing compared to what they're going to be paying for the bandwidth used up by all of the downloading.

  • by hazman (642790) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @01:01AM (#10053261)
    These students can download or stream music, television and movies (presumably fairly recent releases in a VOD arrangement) for $5 a month? And I'm paying $70 a month for my DSS service which has nothing on demand? And it's legal?

    This begs a few observations:

    There is no way this service will make it into the real world at this price.

    or

    This service is not legal.

    or

    My rectum problems are NOT due to a lack of fiber in my diet.
  • Not to nitpick... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nial-in-a-box (588883) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @01:02AM (#10053264) Homepage
    "It is made by Ruckus Network, and was developed by a group of MIT students."

    No offense, but WTF does that mean? Made and developed are essentially synonyms in this case. I often wonder why so many poorly worded submissions make it to the front page of Slashdot. Is it because putting anything in quotes seems to remove all responsibility from the editor? Or is it sheer ignorance. I understand that the English language is a nasty, irregular bastard of a language, but for the love of corn let's try to be professional. And if I see one more "Microsoft are developing" or "Google have updated" or any other such nonsense I'm going to have to beat the living shit out of an ignorant bastard. An entity, even if it is comprised of many individuals, should be treated as singular because it is. I'll stop with the common sense lesson, but if you want people to honestly pay attention to what's important, don't let your poor writing get in the way. Believe me, it's a distraction, and for even more close-minded individuals than myself it can be a complete turn-off. Thanks for your attention.

  • by EvanED (569694) <evaned@gmailPASCAL.com minus language> on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @01:02AM (#10053266)
    I know Penn State has Napster servers on the campus network that has either 90% of the media on them or serves 90% of requests, I forget which.

    It's conceivable that enough people would switch from downloading stuff from Kazaa to Napster to actually save on bandwidth use where it counts, namely the backbone from the school network out into the real world.
  • by Kiwibee (806835) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @01:06AM (#10053282)
    I find it funny that the Ruckus Network's homepage boasts that it "puts an end to Internet bandwidth problems." I don't understand how encouraging students to download files can put an end to bandwidth problems...
  • Re:Yay... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geminidomino (614729) * on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @01:09AM (#10053298) Journal
    I see this less as "Selling music" and more as "blanket extortion."

    "Pay us $5/student or risk being sued."

    Doesn't sound like "sales" to me.
  • Re:Yay... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ChairmanMeow (787164) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @01:14AM (#10053326) Journal
    Force students to pay whether they want the Uni to sell their souls to the RIAA or not.

    That's what makes me angry... The college I go to signed a deal with iTunes, which basically means that students will be forced to pay an RIAA tax in their tuition, regardless of whether the students actually use the service or not. In my case, I don't want to use iTunes, and since there's no Linux client I can't use it anyway (yes, I know about the Crossover Office story a few days ago, but I'm not going to install Crossover Office to use the iTunes software I don't want). Also, going to a private college is expensive enough without bring forced to pay for academically useless things such as iTunes. Personally, I think it should be at the most an opt-in program: that is, students who wanted to use iTunes would opt-in to the program which would be organized by the college, and the fee would be added to their bill. In that case, any student that did not want to participate in that program would not sign up, and those who did want to participate would sign up. Then again, since when was there reason in the music downloading discussion?
  • content is king (Score:5, Insightful)

    by martin-boundary (547041) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @01:14AM (#10053329)
    The article seems weak on explaining exactly what you get for $5/month. One of the big attractions of filesharing software is the timely content being shared.

    The most popular downloads, which also account for the greatest bandwith used, are things like the latest DVD movies, theatre camera captures, popular albums. That's a simple fact, whether it's legal or not.

    I can't believe Ruckus or any other small media company is ever going to be able to offer these kinds of downloads on their networks. I mean, is WB going to make a deal with them so that they can distribute movies at $5/month right at the same time as those movies are released in theatres?

    So then, what kind of content *can* they distribute? Movies that came out two years ago, or Britney Spears' very first album, I guess. The same stuff that's on free to air TV.

    In that case, there is still going to be alternative "illegal" networks for sharing the latest popular media, and I suspect that the illegal networks will stay much more popular.

  • by EvanED (569694) <evaned@gmailPASCAL.com minus language> on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @01:14AM (#10053330)
    It very well could help. If enought people switched to downloading things from Kazaa to this in-house network, it would actually probably substantially lighten the load where it counts: the connection from the on campus network to the rest of the world.

    (It sounds like this will just be within the university.)

    In campus network is much, much, much cheaper than the backbone out to the Internet. (For example, CMU has gigabit. So downloading within the campus would be almost free.) You increase the total exchange, but decrease the volume of transfer at the bottleneck.
  • by zbuffered (125292) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @01:19AM (#10053348)
    This is for dormitory students who would have access to the university's bandwidth, most likely. The money for this would likely come out of those fees. Students already pay for things like phone service, internet access, cable tv, and more.

    With a total undergraduate population of 15,800, you can rest assured that the final tally will come to less than $2.4 million. But that's not the point.

    The point is, this has nothing to do with academia. This service won't help you get your Bachelor's degree in Computer Science. It won't help you at all. It reminds me of that futurama episode where they go to Mars University:

    Fry: I'm a certified college dropout.


    Leela: Please. Everyone knows 20th century colleges were basically expensive daycare centers.


    Would you send your kid to that college? Would you want to go to that college? Maybe.
  • by iamdrscience (541136) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (ppirtmleahcim)> on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @01:19AM (#10053349) Homepage
    This download network, like many other legal, commercial networks that have struck deals with colleges, is paid for by the university, not by the students themselves. I never really understood this. I mean, I know most schools feel that it is in some way their responsibility to pay for their students entertainment, i.e. concerts and other performances, fairs, etc., but this seems like going a little over the edge. I mean, NIU has 25,000 students, so if they were to pay for this program for all of their students it would be 25,000 students times $5 times let's say 8 months of school (plus whatever they pay for the kids that are there in the summer) or $1,000,000. That's a lot of money to add onto whatever they budget for student entertainment functions.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @01:26AM (#10053389)
    University Tests Legal File Downloading System

    File downloading services are not, in and of themselves, legal or illegal. They simply exist. What makes file downloading systems legal or illegal is what people do with them.

    Much like Grokster and Kazaa were recently ruled to not violate the law, FTP, HTTP, Samba, AppleTalk, and other file transfer technologies are perfectly legal.

    The title would be better stated as "University tests new copyright management system". That's what this system really is, an RIAA sanctioned music distribution system wrapped in DRM.

  • Define Illegal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LuYu (519260) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @01:34AM (#10053427) Homepage Journal

    Dorm students at Northern Illinois University are testing a legal file downloading service.
    Which is to say that all other downloading is "illegal", right?

    This is the problem with the current debate. It seems that "file downloading" has become "illegal" in general because of the political campaigns by the RIAA/MPAA to change the way we think. This is more than a little wrong. Just because the *AAs say it is wrong or illegal, does not make it so. These are the same people who claimed that Spiderman [I] did not make any money so they would not have to pay Stan Lee.

    All file sharing systems, yes, including P2P, are capable of and indeed to share lots of legal files every day. There is no "system" for legal downloads. All systems can carry legal downloads.

    This is a system for controlled sales of *AAs products. Warning. Lanugage, when used in the wrong way, can be hazardous to your freedom.

  • Re:Good idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Proc6 (518858) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @01:41AM (#10053451)
    This is like the third time in 24 hours I've read this analogy and it's really lame.

    If you don't pay mafia protection fees, then "bad things happen to you".

    If you don't pay the RIAA for its monthly fee or buy it's content, then the only things that could happen to you (such as not listening to Britney Spears) are good.

    If you're referring to the court cases brought against people who were file-sharing and infringing on copyrights, then I don't think a monthly college file sharing fee protects you if you continue to file-share copyrighted works that aren't part of the deal. It's safe to assume if you pay a $5 a month college file-sharing fee, then rip your copy of Lord of the Rings and put it up on eMule, you can very well still find yourself in court.

    Stop with the knee jerk quip karma bait comments.

  • Re:Good idea (Score:2, Insightful)

    by hype7 (239530) <u3295110@@@anu...edu...au> on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @02:03AM (#10053544) Journal
    This is like the third time in 24 hours I've read this analogy and it's really lame.


    If you don't pay mafia protection fees, then "bad things happen to you".


    Despite the standover tactics (and I agree they're mafia-esque), they offer a product. The grandparent post values being able to gain access to the content at $5 a month, who the hell are you to say he shouldn't get access to it?

    If you don't pay the RIAA for its monthly fee or buy it's content, then the only things that could happen to you (such as not listening to Britney Spears) are good.


    What happens if grandparent poster likes Britney Spears? Who are you to say it's good for him not to get access to it?

    And if he feels the moral obligation to pay for access, and feels $5/all you can eat content is fair, then let him pay.

    If you're referring to the court cases brought against people who were file-sharing and infringing on copyrights, then I don't think a monthly college file sharing fee protects you if you continue to file-share copyrighted works that aren't part of the deal.


    It will depend on what's made available. I don't think $5 a month is unreasonable, and from what the article says it seems a lot of students agree with that point of view.

    Stop with the knee jerk quip karma bait comments.


    ha! That's rich coming from the guy who posted about how the RIAA is the root of all evil when someone said they might be interested in the service mentioned!

    -- james
  • True, but... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ArbiterOne (715233) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @02:04AM (#10053545) Homepage
    Why "tethered"? If I pay for a movie or music CD at a bricks-and-mortar store, I don't get it "tethered". I'm reminded of the Mark Twain quote when he was told that he could borrow a friend's books, but only read them in his library: "Sure, you can borrow my lawnmower, but for security reasons I cannot allow it to be used outside my lawn."
  • Reality Check (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kioti (593582) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @02:08AM (#10053557)
    If a system like this was ever supported by the MPAA/RIAA does anyone really think $5 a month would be the going rate here in the USA? More like $5 a song. The theft will never stop until the RIAA/MPAA stop alienating their customers. An amazingly large percentage of this country would actually tell you that the RIAA/MPAA are getting exactly what they deserve. The same group would then tell you that it's wrong to steal a candy bar. It has nothing to do with a misunderstanding or dis-association due to the internet. It has to do with people legitimizing the theft because they are angry and they know they have no other recourse in this country. File sharing has become a grass roots campaign to punish the music industry.
  • Re:Good idea (Score:2, Insightful)

    by boijames (641781) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @02:22AM (#10053601) Homepage
    .

    Mafia?

    Don't stir the pot.

    Talk about bad analogies.

    It might be even semi useable if people were, oh, say, stealing from the mafia or bootlegging mafia ice capades shows, and the mafia rolled out a nationwide $5/month "extended service plan," but they're not.

    It's not paying a protection fee. The RIAA isnt going to swoop down on you for not doing anything wrong. Maybe once in a while, but I bet you there are more "oops" mob hits than there are "oops" RIAA hits.

    Not to stick up for the RIAA, but this licensing is not bad at all. It's better than you'll get with sites like Rhapsody or anywhere else - cheapest Ive seen is ten bucks and I'll tell you, for the subscription rate, you don't get a lot - most artists (and almost _all_ "charting" artists) don't license their stuff for streaming - only purchase.

  • Re:Yay... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Brad Oliver (604118) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @02:48AM (#10053677)
    Personally, I think it should be at the most an opt-in program: that is, students who wanted to use iTunes would opt-in to the program which would be organized by the college, and the fee would be added to their bill. In that case, any student that did not want to participate in that program would not sign up, and those who did want to participate would sign up.

    If you make this an opt-in program, why not make other things you don't care for opt-in as well? Don't like your school's fencing program? Don't want to subsidize football jerseys? And what if your camps is blighted with a Starbucks in your student union? Surely a small part of your tuition has gone to make that possible. Granted I'm exaggerating a little, but when you start complaining about paying for non-essential academic stuff, where do you stop?

  • Re:Yay... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jace of Fuse! (72042) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @03:04AM (#10053727) Homepage
    Since you're paying for it, use it. Yes, yes, I know, you use Linux and can't. Blah. Find a Windows PC, download a song. Follow me here...

    Now, since it's that DRM encoded garbage AAC or whatever, you're going to want to strip that crap out.

    Use Hymn [hymn-project.org] for that. Now add your unlocked song to your collection in iTunes. Use iTune's built in "CONVERT TO MP3" feature, which it will do nicely and you now have a file you can use on your Linux machine. iTunes has a built in converter that works really well, but it won't convert it's own DRM protected trash. So once you've taken that out....

    There are a few things to note. First off, when iTunes converts it to MP3 it will grow in size, nearly almost double it's original depending on the content. Next, your MP3 player has to support variable rate MP3s, which most do.

    I know supporting iTunes is kind of like saying you accept DRM, but if you have to pay for it then use it the way you want. After all, You paid and can't listen to it on your chosen platform. Exercise your fair rights!
  • Re:content is king (Score:3, Insightful)

    by martin-boundary (547041) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @04:02AM (#10053853)
    Of course the content on radio, television and cable networks isn't free to those networks, nor can viewers/listeners do whatever they like with their own recordings. As part of the media publishers' end-to-end public distribution schedule, they're at the far end - ie theatre release in the US, followed by theatre release around the world, followed by DVD release, followed by cable, and finally TV, first prime time and eventually as late night filler. The full progression takes years, and exists on purpose so that distribution channels don't cannibalize each other's markets.

    Part of the reason for the existence of sharing networks is a direct reaction against that model, for example sharing DVDs because world wide distribution is scheduled a year later, but advertising hype creates a demand right now, even as far as unscheduled countries.

    So if companies like Ruckus etc. play according to the RIAA/MPAA rules, then they have a slot available to them somewhere next to the cable companies, which means that their sharing networks don't address all the issues (eg movies which take a year to be released outside the US etc.), and won't make a big dent in the proliferation of illegal sharing networks.

  • Re:Yay... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by EzInKy (115248) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @04:55AM (#10054020)
    And people wonder why record labels have been unwilling to try selling music online. When they do, people still criticize them.

    Only because they earned that criticism by their refusal to adapt to technological change. Many people have already delegated the former powerful record labels to the dustbins of history that include the carraige makers of the nineteenth century. They had their chance and the screwed up by choosing to sue people rather than offer a solution that would benefit all.
  • by lucason (795664) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @04:56AM (#10054023) Homepage
    for providing them with a wonderfully decentralized, efficient distribution system that allows them to make there music better known to a broader public without having to invest in costly bandwidth.

    If they'd only have a brain amongst them....

  • Re:Yay... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by squiggleslash (241428) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @07:41AM (#10054511) Homepage Journal
    I wonder if Shawn Fanning ever realized that this was the logical end point of the revolution he started - deliberately create a network that makes it easy to infringe artist's rights and makes it difficult to identify specific infringers, and you end up with a situation where the innocent - be it "every broadband user" (as proposed by El Reg and the EFF - I'm serious, both are proposing the solution to P2P is a compulsory broadband tax) or in this case, "every student", ends up having to pay for the music instead, with the RIAA and MPAA desperately leveraging any single point of liability they can find.

    Kind of sucks, doesn't it? Everyone suffers because two groups - artists and copyright infringers - decide to take everything to the most extreme extents they can.

  • by OrangeTide (124937) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @07:53AM (#10054540) Homepage Journal
    Maybe I just don't "get" it. But I thought we send kids to college to learn stuff, not to download music and videos. If that's all they are going to do, they can stay home and work at 7-eleven and start paying rent.

    If you're going to be in college/uni soon I would highly recommend that you don't view it as an opportunity to get laid, a way to hone your counterstrike skills, or a chance to vastly improve your music and dvd collection.
  • Re:Good idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ViolentGreen (704134) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @08:25AM (#10054697)
    Well you can't get around that. The point is that they have access to the service. Whether they use it or not is their choice.
  • by endersdouble (719120) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @08:31AM (#10054719)
    Hmm, yes, sounds like a good idea. Keeps you from getting in trouble. But that does not mean that it is a good thing, really...it fails to fix the problem we have, the problem that you CAN get in trouble for things that are not wrong. Don't get me wrong; downloading a copy of, say, Collateral without paying for it, having any intention of paying for it, for the sole reason that you do not want to pay for it, is wrong. But there is that pesky thing called fair use. Not everything students do on these networks is wrong.
  • by evilplushtoy (738114) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @10:23AM (#10055793)
    Guys, the way this service works is simple. They have deals with RIAA and MPAA, and this enables them to give access to all the music files and movies older than 4 years old. They set up servers on campuses, and those servers store files to be downloaded by the students on their own campus, lowering bandwidth requirements to off-campus locations.

    Students can request any song in the 700,000 song library (or whatever the current downloadable music library size is) and if it isn't already on their on-campus server, the server will go get it elsewhere and store it for future downloads. The students can take as much music as they want, but they will NOT NOT NOT be able to transfer these off their computer by any means: mp3 player, burning to CD/DVD.

    Let me say that again. They will NOT be able to copy, burn, transfer these files by any means. If they want to do this, they pay the $0.99 per song going rate to get the song in Windows Media format. From that point on, they can copy that song because they own it, and it will come with all the trappings of Windows Media DRM.

    Every college campus gets a custom Ruckus website, where students can publish their playlists, and if you like it, you can then download the playlist from the Ruckus server.

    Insofar as movies, the reason you can't get movies newer than 4 years old is because of all the deals in place with video rental places, movie theaters, HBO, etc. But, they point out a large segment for demand are cult classics which would be available for download.

    I've met with Company management, and this is all from their presentation.

    -evilplushtoy

  • Re:Good idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by aminorex (141494) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @10:51AM (#10056154) Homepage Journal
    Actually, it doesn't much matter whether you are distributing content or not: They sue lots of people without any credible pretext. I got a letter from my cable provider at the instigation of the BSA, for example, claiming that I was sharing Delphi 7 on eDonkey. This is fundamentally absurd, as I have never run eDonkey,
    nor have I ever had a copy of Delphi 7. But they could cut off my Internet connection and put me out of work without so much as a by-your-leave, and my only recourse would be to spend more money than I make in a year to get a lawyer in order to get a whisper of a hint of a chance of convincing some bought-and-paid-for judge to force my cable company to provide service to me, laws saying that they don't have to do so notwithstanding.

    Yeah, my whole family has to live in fear of RIAA/MPAA/BSA barratry because our legal system is corrupt. It sucks. That's why I support assassination politics, the only meaningful form of democracy that's left.
  • Re:Good idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by silicon not in the v (669585) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @11:20AM (#10056529) Journal
    The problem with this is that some students who don't end up using the service, pay for it anyway. Students who don't have computers pay the same price for residence, even though high speed internet is included. ...gym. ...library. ...books.
    Yeah, my taxes pay for jails, but I don't get to use them. The criminals should pay for it. My taxes support schools, but I don't have any kids; that's not fair.[/sarcasm]
    The same kind of thing happens in society, but it's especially true in a university setting. You are getting access to amazing stuff because of the economy of scale of the students that are there. You get to use science and electronics lab equipment that you could never hope to afford. You get to use expensive software packages--autocad and such--that you could not get, gym and fitness facilities, high speed internet, etc., etc. Plus if you act now, you'll also get this great education that will help you get a job! And here's the best part: it's not like taxes where you have to pay it. If you don't like the service package of a university, DON'T GO. Or if you prefer, go to a smaller college or community college that is cheaper and has less features. Would you whine and cry about some place that sells a $15,000 computer that's packed with features you would never use? Instead, choose the one that has the things you do want at a reasonable price.

Almost anything derogatory you could say about today's software design would be accurate. -- K.E. Iverson

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