November 6, 2003 7:09 PM PST

Penn State students blast Napster deal

Angry at what they see as a misuse of their funds, some Pennsylvania State University students are protesting their college's new deal with the Napster music service.

The new service was announced Thursday with considerable fanfare, touted by university officials and the company as a way to provide students with a legal alternative to downloading music illegally from Kazaa or other file-swapping networks.

Under the program, students will get access to Napster's music-subscription service, and all charges will be included as a part of their pre-existing information technology fees, currently $160 per semester. But some students are now saying that this manner of using their funds, which they are required to pay have no control over, is not appropriate.

"The money I pay could go to much better things such as rebuilding the network or better lab equipment," wrote Penn State senior Joe Jarzab in an e-mail to CNET "Almost every single student I have talked to is outraged that their money is going to a program that they don't even want...(and that) their money is being sent to the music industry without their consent."

The new Penn State program is just the first of what is likely to be many such pilot projects coming the next few months and even years. Universities have long sought a way to minimize legal risk to their students from file swapping and to reduce the pressure on networks overtaxed by music and video downloads. Many schools are now looking to legal music services as a possible answer.

Penn State President Graham Spanier and Recording Industry Association of America President Cary Sherman are co-chairs of a joint industry and university committee that is scrutinizing the possibility of putting legal music services on campus. The Penn State deal with Napster is the first of these to emerge.

Spanier said Thursday that he had not received any complaints about using student fees for the project and that access to other entertainment and information services such as cable TV and newspaper subscriptions were also funded by mandatory student charges.

"The discount is quite substantial off what you would pay if you were a regular citizen," Spanier said. "We haven't had any concerns about the fee. We felt we could only go ahead with this if the price could be accommodated within our existing fee."

Jarzab and other students have posted fliers on Penn State's Erie campus protesting the deal and its use of their IT fees, which ordinarily go toward funding networks, computers and other campus technology services. No organized group has yet emerged to officially lobby the university, however.


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