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Napster gags university over RIAA's student tax

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Napster moved into damage control mode today after a university gave some idea as to how much a RIAA music tax will add to student costs.

Ohio University has put up a survey site to see if students are willing to pay $3 per month for the Napster music service. The $3 figure is the first concrete number given by any school indicating how much Napster and its RIAA bully force are looking to muscle out of students. Ohio University believes it will need 5,000 students to pay the $3 fee to make Napster a break-even proposition for the school. Napster has demanded that Ohio University stay silent about the price before anyone catches wind of the cost.

"Napster called us today and said we should not publicize the details or discuss our contract," said Sean O'Malley, spokesman Communication Network Services at OU. "The price was an idea they had suggested early on."

So far, Napster has refused to provide exact details as to how much Penn State University and the University of Rochester are "paying" for the company's service at their schools. Napster bills the public $10 per month for its service, but both Penn State and Rochester have admitted to getting steep discounts.

Napster and the RIAA have billed Penn State and Rochester as "models" to follow, if schools hope to avoid lawsuits by offering a legal music downloading service. The model concept, however, is a tough sell given the secrecy being employed by Napster. Universities across the country would end up shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars if they paid full price for Napster.

OU is taking the commendable step of not making Napster mandatory. It's simply trying to see if enough students are willing to pay $3 to make the service worthwhile."We just need to be careful not to lose money on it," O'Malley said. "Our state is having major budget issues, and we are a state-funded university." OU students have yet to face lawsuits from the RIAA, and peer-to-peer services are not really posing a problem to network bandwidth, O'Malley said. Still, the school hoped to be "proactive" with copyright protection.

On the plus side, Napster users at the school would be able to download as much music as they like for $3 per month - Windows users only, of course. Sadly, the DRM restrictions with Napster run high. Users can only make 3 copies of a song before the files become unplayable. In addition, students must pay 99 cents per song to move the file from their computer onto a CD or music playing device.

Students would also only be able to download songs while they are on the school network. Once they leave school their music disappears. Has renting culture ever been more fun? ®

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