NEW YORK (CNNfn) - At Duke, scholars can download, but at New York University and Notre Dame, Napster is a no-no.|
According to a report by research firm Gartner Group (IT: Research, Estimates), 34 percent of U.S. colleges and universities have banned Napster, the controversial song-swapping service, to Internet users surfing over campus servers.
Some schools see Napster as a digital-age research tool that benefits its student body and faculty. But the software program presents possible dangers for universities in the form of potential legal liability and campus high-speed Internet networks clogged with the traffic of files being swapped.
Students at schools such as Columbia, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Northwestern will this year have access to the service, which allows users to peer into the hard drives of other enthusiasts and exchange songs compressed into the popular MP3 format.
Yale, Rice, and the University of Southern California (USC) are among the many colleges that have banned Napster.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco is expected in early October to entertain the next stage in a bitter legal battle between Napster and the recording industry.
In July, an appellate court stay against U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel's injunction has allowed Napster to temporarily continue operations.
The industry, which accuses the San Mateo, Calif.-based company of facilitating massive copyright infringement by its users, wants Napster shut down. Napster, on the other hand, argues that it has broken no laws and that it merely provides a conduit for enthusiasts to share music they like.
Gartner suggests that colleges, where the Napster phenomenon gained huge momentum during the 1999-2000 school year, may at some point become a legal target.
"I would not want to be the university president who neglected to update the school policy regarding music downloads this year," said Robert Labatt, principal analyst for Gartner's e-Business Services group. "Long legal battles can be costly, and one school could easily be singled out to set legal precedent this year."
"Schools must 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," P.J. McNealy, senior analyst for Gartner's e-Business Services.
In April, the heavy metal band Metallica filed a copyright infringement suit against Napster and originally named Yale, USC and Indiana University as defendants in its lawsuit. The colleges were subsequently dropped from the case after all three schools banned students from using Napster.