When it comes to downloading music, students rarely have been able to describe the action as both "free" and "legal."
But that will no longer be the case for University of Richmond students.
The university, in association with Ruckus Network Inc., is providing a free music downloading service that is now available to students, granting them access to more than 2.5 million songs.
"We had heard from students that they really would like a way to access music legally," said Kathy Monday, vice president for information services who, along with her staff, worked with Ruckus to finalize the university's contract. "Music is an important part of [the students'] lives, and now they can legally download the music they want to listen to."
Information services first contacted Ruckus in October to begin working on an agreement, Monday said. The service received a great deal of support from both the Richmond and Westhampton College student governments. Ruckus is completely free for students, and the university has to pay only a small amount to purchase the software, Monday said.
Ruckus was launched in September 2004 at Northern Illinois University, and it was the first online music service focused only on the market of college students. While it was originally based on subscriptions requiring a monthly fee, the company changed in January 2006 to an ad-subsidized model, allowing users to download music free of charge.
Until recently, the program was only available to students at universities that had solidified contracts with Ruckus. But on Jan. 22, the company announced on its Web site that the program was available to any of the estimated 20 million American students with a valid ".edu" e-mail address.
"Free and legal digital music has just become broadly available to the most active and engaged music consumer group on the planet," Michael Bebel, president and CEO of Ruckus, said in a statement on Jan. 22. "We look forward to providing the same great user experience with an incredible library of content, to an even greater number of users nationwide."
Therefore, Richmond students will not have to wait until the Ruckus server is installed on campus to start downloading music. With the new capabilities, students can go to the Ruckus Web site, register using a valid ".edu" e-mail address and, within minutes, download the music they want.
But Monday said there were advantages available only to students at universities with contractual agreements with the company. These include faster downloads, better overall service capabilities and, in the near future, access to free movies. Ruckus currently offers movie downloads for a fee of $15 per semester, but Monday says the company plans to make that service free soon, though no date has been set.
Monday said the server arrived on campus Monday and should be operating this week.
She said students would be notified through SpiderBytes when the server is available and that any users registered under the current format would be automatically redirected to the new one.
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The library of music available through the program runs the gamut of styles, from the Dixie Chicks and My Chemical Romance to Neil Young and Young Jeezy. Downloads are speedy — a full album in less than a minute — and will be even faster once a server is installed on campus.
Of course, there are limitations to what students can do with the free music. Downloaded songs cannot be burned to CDs, and Ruckus does not support Apple products, so students will not be able to import music downloaded from Ruckus to their iPods.
Most Richmond students said they had not heard of this program yet. Still, students who have been notified of the program seem to be enthused and believe that it will be used by most of their fellow students on campus.
"If it's a legal way to download music, then of course it's better," senior Becca Taylor said. "No one likes to get busted for illegal file sharing. I think once it catches on, students will definitely take advantage of it."
Junior Ethan Kalm said he had friends at other school that used similar services and that he thought Ruckus would be a service that Richmond students would use frequently. Although the inability to import the downloaded music to an iPod is a major downside, he said he thought it was a better and safer alternative to other downloading systems.
"It's free and legal," he said. "So at least you won't get into trouble"
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