Because of the availability of high-bandwidth networks at so many colleges and universities, and because college students are a notoriously poor and thrifty group of people, the number of college students charged with illegally downloading music is high.
More importantly, the RIAA has been serving schools with John Doe requests to force them to reveal the names of their students who are infringing on their copyright. Besides decrying the RIAA as a bully and a monopoly that anachronistically can’t fathom new business models, what’s a school to do? Many schools have begun to offer their students free subscriptions to subscriber services like Napster. Napster in particular was adopted by Penn State University, among others. However, students didn’t particularly like the service, and because tracks downloaded through it are impossible to burn to CD or transfer to say, an iPod, illegal peer-to-peer file sharing continued. Moreover, schools were paying vast sums of money for a service their students really didn’t use.
Enter Ruckus. The Ruckus Player is an actual download, but it alone is useless. However, once a user signs up (with a valid *.edu email address), s/he can download *.ruckusdownload files from ruckus.com, which the Player uses to track and download files. The service is ad-supported, but free to any student. Schools can optionally pay to have a server put on campus, which significantly boosts download speeds for students without straining the Internet bandwidth of the school. Win-win! Ruckus tracks are still encumbered with prohibited DRM (“digital rights management”) courtesy of Microsoft’s PlaysForSure initiative. Fortunately for the enterprising student, there are is an easy-to-use program that strips the DRM from these files, which can then be imported into iTunes/burnt to CD/put on an MP3/etc. Even for those unwilling to chart into the legal gray area of DRM strippers, Ruckus is an excellent source of completely free audio. Just watch out, because once you graduate…. your tunes expire!