Apple lovers start attack against Cornell's Napster trial

Faustian bargain begins to unravel

A small revolt has broken out at Cornell University over the school's use of the Napster music subscription service.

The Cornell Daily Sun has been bombarded with letters from current and past students with many of the missives complaining about the anti-Apple stance of Napster. Cornell is currently running a trial of the Napster service, which leaves close to 20 percent of its students without access to the free music downloads. Napster only supports the Windows 2000 and XP operating systems.

"Perhaps even more troubling is that the most popular portable MP3 player, Apple's iPod, also does not work with Napster," writes one student in a letter to the school paper. "An estimated 50-70 percent of Cornell students with such players have iPods, according to Cornell Information Technologies."

Cornell is one of the very few - 8 total - schools that swallowed Napster's music rental service line. In many cases, the schools are providing Napster for free at the moment, but then warning that all students will be required to pay for Napster down the road. This is the case at Cornell and is clearly disheartening to the Mac crowd.

Cornell's student assembly - one of the most impotent and heart-cooling organizations we've run into of late - has called for "dialogue" around the Napster issue. Cornell students, and now Register readers, are urged to send their feedback on the service here.

Cornell is currently using a grant, believed to be from Sony, to fund the Napster beta. Should the school move from trial to full service, students will likely pay $20 per year for Napster. Well, that's what Windows using students will pay. Apple fans are being asked to pay $149 for Microsoft's Virtual PC software, if they want to run Napster. (Cornell's Napster page provides a broken link to the Microsoft product, but you can find it here.) That $149 fee is the equivalent of seven years of Napster at the college rate, so we hope the Mac users are slackers and get the most of their investment.

Given Cornell's wonderfully close ties to Microsoft and Intel, it seems the day when a Wintel machine is required can't be too far off.

So, in total, Cornell has picked a music rental service that one-fifth of its students can't use, that doesn't support the leading music-playing device and that will eventually add to already astronomical education costs. All of this so students can rent music for four years and then have their investment disappear as they head to the real world.

Napster offers such a large discount on this service to the school that it doesn't even make money on the deal. It does, however, get to track every song downloaded or purchased by students, as does Cornell. (Information the music labels are likely happy to pay for.) And Cornell keeps the music labels' lawyers off its back for a bit longer.

Does listening to music get more romantic than this? ®

Related link

The revolt begins

Related stories

Apple fans apathetic about apathy
Apple faithful's apathy to blame for Napsterized schools
More universities agree to RIAA/Napster 'protection'

Sponsored: Driving business with continuous operational intelligence