Penn State offers free music downloading to students

On Monday, Penn State launched their program to provide their students with unlimited, legal, free music downloads through the newly reincarnated Napster 2.0. Downloads can be streamed or protected by Digital Rights Management software, and students will be allowed to keep their music until they graduate, or to purchase songs for 99 cents each. According to Penn State’s November announcement, the program is intended both to provide a legal alternative to illegal downloading and to “educate students on this issue”:

Why is Penn State providing a music downloading service to its students?

Penn State is concerned that some of its students don’t understand that downloading music over computer networks without purchasing copyright permission is both unethical and against the law. The University believes it has a responsibility to do something to change that. Penn State will continue to try to educate students on this issue and will continue to enforce its strong policies against copyright infringement. At the same time, the University wants to provide legal alternatives to illegal downloading. This service is directly aimed at helping students to understand the issue and to provide them with an alternative.

I’m curious how this plan pans out, and in particular what percentage of students will crack the DRM so they can listen to downloaded songs on their non-Napster MP3 players (e.g. iPod) or to send music to their friends at other schools. I expect a large number will, but perhaps I’m too skeptical in thinking that you can’t teach the lesson “music isn’t free” by giving someone free music.

Perhaps a more interesting question is whether Napster can lock students in to their closed discussion communities and radio stations. It’s much harder to take these services with you when you graduate than it is to run your whole hard drive through a crack-kit — I’m sure Napster gave Penn State a good deal on the assumption that this is a good foot in the door.