University of Rochester

Q&A: University of Rochester, Napster Online Music Service

February 4, 2004

(A full news release announcing the new service is available at

Why are you starting this service?

Downloading music from the Web is fast becoming both a common practice for music lovers and a problem when it's done illegally. A legal, robust online music service is something that many colleges and universities will begin offering. The University of Rochester, we are sure, is one of the first of many that will make such a service available to its students.

When will the service be available?

Later in this semester. The final technical details are being worked out right now, and we'll announce the start date as soon as we know it. The initial period, after which the service will be evaluated, ends after the spring 2005 semester.

How will it work?

Any student living in a residence hall on the River Campus or at the Eastman School will have access to the more than 500,000 songs on Napster, as well as access to radio stations, community features and other benefits. Free access to songs comes in the form of "tethered downloading" to a student's computer. This is the equivalent of a long-term "rental" of each piece. Songs also can be purchased for 99 cents each, or $9.95 per album, in order to be burned to a CD or loaded onto a portable music device such as an MP3 player. In the fall of 2004, we hope that the Napster service can be extended to students not living in residence halls and to faculty and staff.

What are the requirements for using it?

It can be used by anyone with a PC running Windows 2000 or XP, and who has proper authentication as a residence hall resident. Unfortunately, Apple has not agreed to license the necessary software to make this work on the Macintosh, unless one runs PC emulation software.

What's the cost of this?

The Premium Service costs $9.95 per month for the general public. The cost to the University is discounted from that.

How will this be funded?

At least during the initial period running through the 2005 spring semester, the monthly cost will be funded by the University, not by individual students.

How will it affect next year's student activity fee?

As we look at fees for next year, we do not expect the University contract rate for Napster to have any significant impact on the student activity fee.

What process did you use to decide about this?

The Provost's Office reviewed several proposals for an online music service. Students were also offered the chance, in the ITS Center, to look at various services and to make comments about them. Ultimately, the University chose the one that had the largest catalog and good features including an easy to use interface, and a reasonable cost.

What happens when students go home for the summer?

When school ends for the summer, students will have access to their tethered downloads, in addition to tracks they've purchased. They also will be able to access Napster's basic service. However, they will not be able to obtain additional tethered downloads during the summer.

Will one's library have to be reconstructed when students return in the fall?

No, one's library should work just fine at the start of the fall semester.

Will downloading cause bandwidth problems for the University?

No. Ultimately we will use a dedicated computer providing a local cache for those songs that are most popular, meaning that one won't actually have to use the Internet to download those songs. Second, by taking advantage of this service students will not have to illegally download files in a way that would compromise bandwidth.

Will the service provide access to movies and videos as well?

Not during this first period. That, of course, may come later as the technologies are refined and service grows.