Swapping Spree

When International Studies Residential College resident Ben Rottman announced to his fellow dormmates almost four weeks ago that he thought everyone should download Apple’s iTunes software, he was sharing a revelation that has swept the nation.

Two days after Apple’s release of its iTunes software for Windows on Oct. 17, Rottman said, 10 residents were already plugged into the dorm’s music network. By Sunday, that number had jumped to 28.

They were swapping music files. Legally.

“I don’t want to have to pay for it. I’m a cheap college student, and paying for music isn’t up my alley right now,” McCormick freshman Brian Lesperance said.

INTERNET INNOVATION

Northwestern students aren’t the only ones looking for loopholes in file-sharing regulations. A Web-based music-sharing service invented by two MIT students that allowed students, faculty and staff to download files using their university’s analog cable network was shut down two weeks ago.

Josh Mandel and Keith J. Winstein hoped the service, the Library Access to Music Project, or LAMP, would replace illegal downloading programs on other college campuses. But the students ran into legal problems because services operating on a computer network have stricter licensing requirements than other services.

This comes after at least seven colleges received subpoenas from the Recording Industry Association of America in July demanding the names of students offering music from Internet sites assigned to the college. A Boston College student has reached an out-of-court settlement with the RIAA after the organization subpoenaed her school for suspected copyright violators. She has agreed to stop fighting the subpoena and to make a payment to the RIAA.

iTunes “is a leap forward,” Rottman said, in the battle between rebellious music fans and the record industry. The Recording Industry Association of America has requested at least 1,600 subpoenas for users who it says have illegally downloaded copyrighted material, including no small number of college students around the country. Many of those students are unrepentant.

“I know it’s illegal, I know it’s wrong, but I don’t care,” Lesperance said.

“Until they can shut down, completely, free downloads, or come up with some way of enticing consumers to buy a $20 CD, I’m still going to download music,” Weinberg freshman Stephanie Wai said.

In contrast to popular, more traditional file sharing applications like Gnucleus and KaZaA, iTunes users don’t download the music from their dormmates’ computers when they listen to it. Because there is no downloading involved, iTunes’ music sharing, called “streaming,” acts more like a radio station and may fall under the personal-use exceptions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. So far there has been no legal challenge to the service.

“It’s file sharing, yet it’s not sharing,” Lesperance said.

CAMPUS CONNECTION

NU Information Technology doesn’t concern itself with content as much as the amount of data traveling on campus networks. Don’t assume file sharing has a green light, though.

“We use various technologies to protect the University’s bandwidth from domination by any network application when it begins to adversely affect the core missions of teaching, research and administration,” said Tom Board, director of IT’s Technology Support Services. “Commercial legitimacy is not a factor.”

However, Board said that IT will comply with the copyright provisions of the DMCA, and will warn students, turning off any user’s network connection if she uses too much bandwidth.

“IT stated that they noticed I was connecting to a lot of places around the world and uploading a lot of information,” one student said anonymously. “They told me they knew I was sharing MP3s. The guy I met with

specifically stated I could go to jail for that. He said I was lucky they caught me instead of the record industry.”

SANCTIONED SOFTWARE

Using iTunes, however, “makes the best use of the current situation where people have already stolen a lot of music,” said Medill freshman Heidi Zhou. “It’s a really good compromise because people aren’t forced to give up their music, and at the same time, other people can still listen to it.”

iTunes is a free music player with music-sharing capabilities built in. In the first three days after the software’s release for Windows on Oct. 17, more than 1 million people downloaded it from their web site, Apple Computer, Inc. says. The software has been available for more than two years for Mac users, although without music sharing.

That music sharing means that at ISRC alone 46 days’ worth of music are available on the dorm network its residents share with Communications Residential College. Elsewhere on campus an iTunes-savvy student can find similarly equipped dorm networks.

“When I get bored with my music, I can listen to other people’s. So ultimately I have ten times as much music to listen to, without taking up space on my computer,” said Lizz Stephens, a Weinberg junior.

For the deep-pocketed, iTunes also has iTunes Music Store online with downloads available for 99 cents per song. According to Apple, 400,000 songs from all five major record companies — Bertelsmann, EMI, Sony, Universal and Warner — and 200 independent labels are available for purchase.

When users buy songs from the iTunes Music Store, the songs are legally theirs but are coded to prevent users from illegally sharing the music. Only three authorized users can stream the songs over the network from that user’s library, among other restrictions.

This isn’t so much a change as an evolution in delivery methods, according to some. “Basically if you want to have your own music, you still have to buy it,” Rottman said. “It’s built into the nature of any digital media that you can copy it. So I don’t think there’s any way to stop it. I’m sure someone will figure out a way for people to copy music over iTunes, and not just share music over iTunes.”

ALTERNATIVE MUSIC

But other legitimate alternatives aren’t much more appealing. Some

services, like BuyMusic.com, charge a range of fees per song, and others, like Roxio’s Napster service (not the original software), allow you to listen to as much music as you want for a monthly fee.

Recently, Penn State decided to license Napster’s service for all 83,000 of its undergraduate and graduate students. These songs are also copyright-protected, using different technology than iTunes, but with a similar intent.

For bands there’s an incentive to get their music online in some way, to increase their exposure and make money off their art as well. Cactrot, a Chicago-area band, leverages iTunes’ streaming capabilities to its advantage. “I got a bunch of people on my floor to use iTunes,” said bassist Steve Lorence, a sophomore at the University of Illinois. “and now they can listen to my band’s music off of my computer.

Which is cool.”

Get out of RIAA subpoenas

1. Don’t get caught!

2. Make sure that no copyrighted music is in your “shared” folder.

3. Make sure that there are no misleading file names in your shared folder.

4. Turn off “sharing” in your file sharing application.

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