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Thursday, 31 August, 2000, 14:32 GMT 15:32 UK
Napster ban for students
Napster logo
More and more universities and colleges in the United States are banning their students from using the Napster song-swapping service, in fear of copyright law suits.

A survey by Gartner Group found that 34% of 50 universities banned their students from using Napster on their campuses, among them New York University and Kent State.

A US judge recently ruled to close down Napster, saying the service could violate the copyright of musicians by helping users to freely swap music online, using files in the MP3 format.

A higher court then suspended Napster's closure pending an appeal.

Waiting for the legal precedent

However, university administrators are busy writing policies on Napster use, and Robert Labatt of Gartner's e-business services group warns that he "would not want to be the university president who neglected to update the school policy regarding music downloads this year".

"Long legal battles can be costly, and one school could easily be singled out to set legal precedent this year", he added.

P.J. McNealy, a senior analyst with Gartner, said universities should "consider the implementation of ethical standards and policy guidelines, even written agreements, that explicitly state that copyright infringement is illegal and will not be tolerated".

According to Gartner, the drain on a university's computer network should not be neglected either.

The company estimates that some university's find that up to 75% of the bandwidth of their networks could be taken up by music swapping online traffic - "for potentially illegal purposes".

Writing a policy does not necessarily result in banning Napster. Some big-name universities like Columbia University, Harvard and Stanford are allowing their students to use the software.

Napster chief executive Hank Barry said he was "pleased that two-thirds of the schools polled in the survey will allow students to participate in the Napster community".

October appeal

A federal appeals court will hear opening arguments in the case on 2 October.

Napster had been sued by the Recording Industry Association of America and some of the largest companies in the record industry, including Universal, Bertelsmann, Sony, EMI and Time Warner.

Using the MP3 format, songs can be compressed into relatively small computer files, without losing much sound quality.

While many MP3 web sites can be easily controlled for copyright violations, Napster turns the computer of every user in a potential server of MP3 files, opening the door wide to music piracy.

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See also:

19 Aug 00 | Business
Napster says judge 'wrong'
18 Jul 00 | Entertainment
MP3 fans target politicians
28 Jul 00 | Entertainment
Courts grant Napster reprieve
28 Jul 00 | Business
MP3.com settles with EMI
15 Jul 00 | Business
EMI tests web music sales
27 Jul 00 | Entertainment
Record industry backs Napster closure
07 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
Swapping without suing
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