While the illegal downloading of files is still a major concern for both the Recording Industry Association of America and the otion Picture Association of America, legal downloading services such as Movielink, iTunes and the new Napster are leading a transition to a legitimate online marketplace, with Pennsylvania State University potentially setting a trend to be followed by other universities across the nation.

Penn State announced a plan Nov. 6 that allows for all students of the university to download unlimited music for free off a newly redesigned Napster program. Funded by a $160 information technology fee already included in the tuition, installation of the system will have no additional costs for students.

“The price we negotiated with Napster was so reasonable and possible to do within our fee structure,” Penn State President Graham Spanier told Reuters.

Students can save unlimited downloads on up to three personal computers but are charged 99 cents for each song they choose to burn onto a CD or copy to a portable device, a price on par with other music sharing services such as Apple’s iTunes.

About 18,000 Penn State students will first be given access to the over 500,000-song Napster catalog.

If successful, the Penn State program could become a model for other universities around the state, which are currently attempting to handle the illegal file sharing issue. Georgetown does not have any plans to enable a similar program, according to Beth Ann Bergsmark, director of academic and information technology services.

This new Napster contrasts sharply with the one introduced in the late 1990s, which was shut down in 2001 after copyright infringement accusations. In a bankruptcy auction, the service was purchased last year by Roxio, Inc. Subscribers are charged 99 cents per song, $9.95 per album or a monthly fee of $9.95 for unlimited use.

Bergsmark said that students at Georgetown can still access legal services online.

“Students can individually choose to subscribe to these services as long as their usage does not exceed significant bandwidth provisions affecting others,” she said.

Bersmark said she did not know of any legal action taken against Georgetown students for illegal file sharing activity.

“Contact is primarily via DMCA [Digital Millennium Copyright Act] mechanisms. For example, if RIAA or MPAA find a copyright protected song or movie [from one of their artists] being published from a Georgetown student, they will send a formal complaint to our DMCA agent,” she said.

Accordingly, dozens of studios currently take part in legal online movie downloading services. Two of the most popular are ovielink and Cinema Now, each of which have members such as Warner Brothers, Universal, MGM and Sony. With these sites, “You can download movies

over the internet similar to the legal Napster,” Matthew Grossman, director of Digital Strategy for the MPAA, said.

While the MPAA has not issued subpoenas to individual file-sharers like the RIAA has, legal action is also coming from the movie industry. In certain cases, such as one in which a movie was about to be released over the Internet before it was even released in theaters, the MPAA has found the person responsible for leaking the film and prosecuted him.

The MPAA is also active, like the RIAA, in litigation against companies and people who mass distribute copyrighted material, as well as the software companies that are creating the technology that allow such piracy.

Grossman cited the growing usage of broadband Internet access as a reason to expect piracy levels to increase, but believes the growing number of legal outlets can counteract the call of quicker free downloads. In an effort to further end illegal sharing, “The MPAA is taking a multi-pronged approach which requires a combination of efforts,” he said.

According to Grossman, the first approach being taken by the PAA is to educate people about, “the huge impact on nearly 1,000,000 people in the industry, not just the rich celebrities.” Further, they are looking to technology companies to develop the best legal methods possible and to the legislative agenda in an effort to make such piracy a major government issue.

Efforts to address the issue at Georgetown will be expanded next spring according to Bergsmark.

“In the spring semester, we’ll be focusing more attention on education and discussion of the issues surrounding copyrighted materials and legal venues to access multimedia. We’re looking at developing an online tutorial/test and perhaps sponsoring some panel discussions on the issue,” she said.

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