Legal file sharing program for universities closes

Ruckus, a free college-only program that allowed students to share music and download more than 3 million songs, closed this month.

The company closed because of legal issues, inability to continue providing free music, employee loss and layoffs.

Alex Campoe, USF’s associate director of information technology, said a Feb. 6 message on the Ruckus Web site stated that the site was being worked on. A few hours later, another message explained that the site had been shut down.

Jason Herskowitz, vice president of product management for TotalMusic, the company that owned Ruckus, released a statement in his blog lamenting the loss and explaining that economic issues forced the Web site to shut down.

“It should therefore come as no surprise that these small sites and services don’t have the resources, or desire, to deal with licensing content directly,” he wrote. “And for that matter, nor do the content owners — imagine the legal and contractual management overhead.”

Michael Pearce, USF’s chief technology officer, said the service was originally brought to USF in September 2007 because of the issues surrounding online file sharing. Before adopting the program, the University placed 11th in the nation in illegal downloading.

“Ruckus was one of the few offerings (in music downloading software) that did not have a membership fee,” Pearce said.

Within three months, more than 6,000 members at USF downloaded millions of songs, and the University dropped from its high ranking, as reported by the Oracle in 2007.

Pearce said he thinks students will continue to make wise choices about downloading music and that the ranking will not rise again.

“It’s not about one solution, it’s about education — making students aware, giving students references for where to find other alternatives,” he said.

Campoe said he suggests that students use Slacker, Pandora and to listen to music for free.

“These programs allow students to start building up (their) playlists and do so by rating songs,” Campoe said.

Campoe said there is still a system in place that monitors computers used on campus. The system lets USF know the time and date of any illegal downloads and the IP address of the computer.

The Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities determines the consequences for illegal downloading, he said. Students are notified of violations by mail and may lose their right to use the University network.

Jen Alexandre, a junior majoring in secondary English education, said she will not miss the program.

“I didn’t like the renewal business, so after a while I converted to iTunes” Alexandre said.

Junior criminology major Derek Hayward said he was not happy about the company’s closing.

“It’s annoying that now I have to pay for songs when I’m not sure if I will like them,” he said. “Before, I could listen to someone’s playlist, but now I have to use iTunes, which only lets me preview 30 seconds.”