Legal music downloading service shut off

Alexandra Finkel

When Ana Valdez logged onto Saturday, she got the following message from the college-only digital entertainment service: “Unfortunately the Ruckus service will no longer be provided. Thanks.”

“I thought it was a joke,” the Weinberg sophomore said. “I had just downloaded a John Mayer and Wilco album the day before.”

Ruckus was launched in 2004 as a legal alternative for downloading music. It began as a subscription service to 82 select colleges, but when it failed to garner enough users, it was relaunched as a free service to anyone with a “.edu” e-mail address. As of January 2009, the service had exclusive partnerships with 250 schools nationwide, providing access to more than 3 million tracks.

On Friday evening, Ruckus first shut down for site maintenance, but returned an hour later with the farewell message. The details behind the company’s shutdown are unknown and Ruckus Networks could not be reached as of Monday night.

Several legal music download sites including and have also ceased their services in the past year. Colin Chisholm, a security analyst for Northwestern, said the school had experienced an overall decrease in illegal downloading activity because of services like Ruckus and other initiatives.

In August, NU implemented the Be Aware You’re Uploading (NU-BAYU) system, which informs students when they upload or download content from file-sharing sites.

“A lot of students don’t understand that it’s not the downloading that gets them in trouble with the (Recording Industry Association of America), but the uploading, which comes simultaneously,” Chisholm said. “The legal complaints only happen when the user distributes content which is what uploading is.”

The university gets an average of six complaints a week and is required to act on all of them under the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Chisholm said.

“We have to take the steps to limit or stop the activity, whether it’s quarantining accounts or putting a hold on NetIDs,” he said.

Christopher Lee began using Ruckus last winter after he was put on probation for illegally downloading music from sites like LimeWire and BitTorrent.

“One day, I got a notice that my Internet had been suspended and that I should contact the Office of Judicial Affairs and set up an appointment,” he said. “The first time it was a warning, but the second time they put me on probation.”

Since then, Lee has downloaded between 20 and 30 albums from Ruckus.

“It hurts when they take away a service like that,” the Weinberg sophomore said. “People will have to find alternatives, and it may encourage them to download illegally.”

Ruckus’ closure is especially disturbing to Valdez.

“I’m very surprised and sad because it was such an easy way to get music without paying for it,” she said. “I’ve always been scared of downloading from sites like LimeWire because I was paranoid about getting a virus, so I’ll probably just buy from iTunes.”

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