Pay now or pay later

Area students consider the costs of downloading music

Area students consider the costs of downloading music

November 19, 2003|by KATE COLEMAN

With a little equipment and an Internet connection, you can download music for free. With a little more equipment, you can burn that music to a CD, play it in your car or copy it for your friends.

If you're willing to pay, you can download legally, but those methods don't seem too popular.

It's illegal to copy and distribute copyrighted music without permission. The No Electronic Theft Act, a federal law, provides for penalties that can total five years in prison and $250,000 in fines. Also, the holders of the copyright can sue you for up to $150,000 in statutory damages for each of the copyrighted works that are illegally copied or distributed.

Software for legal downloading has been developed. Apple has iTunes - available both for Macintosh and Windows operating systems - for a price.


Penn State University has signed an agreement with online music service Napster.

Students - only Windows and XP users - in on-campus residence halls will receive the service beginning on the first day of the spring semester in January. It is free.

They will be able to download an unlimited number of songs to their computers, stream songs while connected to the Internet, listen to Napster's preprogrammed radio stations and participate in Napster community message boards, according to information on the university's Web site,

The "unlimited" downloading, however, is "tethered." It's similar to renting DVDs. Songs downloaded in this way can be on the hard drives of only three computers at a time.

Permanent copies of songs from Napster may be purchased - for 99 cents each - and then burned onto CDs or transferred to a Napster-supported MP3 player via the service.

Will students pay for downloads?

Students at the William M. Brish Library on the campus of Hagerstown Community College and the Millstream Cafe at Penn State Mont Alto aren't too excited about the idea.

Maria Wood, 19, a general studies major at HCC, was compiling a bibliography for an anthropology class.

Wood, who has a dial-up Internet connection for her computer, has downloaded a few songs, but she says it takes too long to make it convenient.

She says she doesn't like music long enough to buy it, and at $18 to $20 each, CDs are too expensive.

While Wood wouldn't pay to download a song, she says the 99 cents per song Napster2 is charging wouldn't be too bad because she wouldn't be downloading tons of songs.

Kristen Trevey, 18, was working on a bibliography for the same anthropology class as Wood. A second-year general studies major, Trevey says she has downloaded a few pieces of music. She's burned them on CDs and deleted the files off her computer.

With her dial-up connection, the downloading process is slow - about 20 minutes per song, she says. A violin player, she listens mostly to classical music. "Right now I like Mendelssohn," she says.

Would she pay to download music?

"It depends," Trevey says. It depends on how much it costs and how long it takes.

Steven O'Brien, 17, listens to a variety of music and he has downloaded some of it "every so often." Like his fellow HCC students, he has a dial-up connection to the Internet and says the process takes too long. The downloaded music sometimes has glitches. "The quality is not always good," he said.

Steven appreciates that some artists feel like people are stealing music by downloading it. But listening to and downloading music from the Internet has introduced him to some music he's liked.

"I tried one song and I went out and bought the CD," he says.

He's not sure if he would pay to download. It would depend on how much he wanted the song.

Galen Evans, 18, a first-year student at Penn State Mont Alto, commutes to classes from his home in Waynesboro, Pa.

He used to download music to his home computer but doesn't anymore. His is a dial-up connection and it took too long - about three hours per song. Also, the program he used "messed up" his computer.

Eighteen-year-old Philip Frederick is studying architectural engineering. He's from nearby Greencastle, Pa., but lives on the Penn State Mont Alto campus.

Frederick says he used to download music, but stopped. There are bandwidth limitations at the school. Residence hall computers connect to the college network, and students are restricted from downloading more than 1.5 gigabytes per week. There are consequences for exceeding the limit.

If warnings are ignored, students will lose their connection to the network, says Holly Cieri, public relations coordinator for Penn State Mont Alto.

Frederick found that even if he logged out of the downloading program, even if he turned his computer off, others had access to his sharing folder and files could be downloaded.

He's not sure if he would pay for downloading music.

"It would depend on the circumstances," he says.

But he says it's so much easier - and less expensive - than going to the mall and spending $20 for a CD.

It's a pain to have to repeatedly reboot his computer, so Andrew Hess, a 20-year-old accounting student at Penn State Mont Alto, doesn't download music anymore. He stopped mostly because he got viruses in his computer. He's had antivirus systems fail.

Hess, who likes rock and alternative music, says he guesses he'd pay to download music because he could select songs he wanted and not have to pay for an entire CD.

- Staff Writer Andrea Rowland contributed to this story.

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