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Students adjust to Napster alternatives for media

The Napster website is a little stripped down these days-instead of MP3 music files, the once-dominant file-swapping service now only offers novelty tee-shirts.

Almost six months after Napster ended its operation, however, file-sharing continues on campus, as music enthusiasts have ridden out the rise and sometimes fall of several other services, including Morpheus, AudioGalaxy and more recently, KaZaA--the new service of choice for Duke students.

"It's nice to be able to [also] download movies and TV shows, which I don't think Napster could do," said Margi Brooks, a senior who uses KaZaA, "but Napster seemed faster."

Brooks is not the only student who misses Napster.

"I like KaZaA pretty well, but I get annoyed with the pop-up ads," said Steve Poliner, a sophomore.

Students are using music download services in a number of ways. Some, like Poliner, create extensive music libraries with the files they download. His collection boasts an impressive 2,500 songs and thirty movies. In some cases these collections are replacing the traditional home CD library.

"The only thing that makes me buy CDs is I have an elaborate sound system in my car," said freshman Bryce Walker.

Not all students have bought into the downloading craze, however, and some have burned out on it altogether. "I get frustrated with [the newer music services]," said Daidree Tofano, a freshman. "Napster was much easier."

Vinny Eng, a senior and former Napster user, explained that he has avoided the newer services even though he is familiar with them. "It's too easy to get caught at your computer for an hour," he said.

Other students have found ethical reasons to stay away from Napster and its clones.

"I really do feel like it's stealing," said Jamalyn Peigh, a student in the Divinity School. "It would be different if it was okay with the musicians."

Emily Wren, a freshman, claims a more legitimate use for KaZaA. "I preview a CD, and if I like it I'll support the artist," she said. "I try to find underground stuff."

Napster's online service disappeared in the midst of a series of ongoing legal battles with recording companies regarding its members' use of copyrighted material. In late 1999, record companies began filing lawsuits against the service. In Sept. 2000, attorneys for recording artists Dr. Dre and Metallica asked university presidents, including President Nan Keohane, to ban access to the service from college campuses.

Keohane refused, citing legitimate uses for Napster. Napster then attempted to convert to a fee system, but its beta version was put on hold indefinitely this spring.

Others services emerged, but some have already succumbed to pressure from the music industry--including the popular AudioGalaxy service this summer. But students are hardly sympathetic to the arguments of the music industry.

"That's just capitalist society. They're just going to make as much money as they can," Peigh said.

Alex Perez, a graduate student in the English department, took a different approach. "It's a misconception that musicians make money off their music," he said. "They make more money off promotional industries."

For other students, the legal question is simply unimportant. "It doesn't bother me that much," said Poliner. "It's better just to ignore the issue."

Until many of the pending cases are resolved, the future of free music is still in the air. Faced with the prospect of one day paying for the music they download, students are largely unworried. Most students said they probably would be willing to subscribe to a new service if that was the only option, but felt that free music will always be available to them.

But nostalgia remains for the original online music service. "I have very fond memories of Napster," Brooks said. "It was my first."

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