Entertainment program creates a ‘ruckus’

It was a summer of leisure for senior Shaun Marek as he spent his time in Eau Claire catching up on new movie releases and listening to the latest songs from popular artists.

While it seems like he may have spent a good deal of that time at the movie theater or a local music supplier, Marek never had to leave his room or open his wallet – he was getting the internet media program for free.

Then his actions finally caught up with him when his illegal media garnered the attention of the Recording Industry Association of America. A couple of weeks into the summer Marek had a copyright violation.

“The university contacted me and told me that it’s against the university policy,” he said. “I just needed to be in compliance with the university policy so I needed to have that file off my computer.”

Now, instead of students worrying about these violations, a service called Ruckus will provide students with unlimited access to music and movies – for a price.

For $14.95 per semester, students can download limitless music tracks from popular and well-known artists, $19.95 for semester-long movie access and $29.95 for both, said Josh Weiner, director of communications for Ruckus.

“All of our music is fully licensed and fully protected,” Weiner said. “It’s a pretty accessible service that we feel fulfills students’ needs.”

While other peer-to-peer sharing devices, like Kazaa or Bearshare, bring in spyware and viruses, Ruckus contains clean files that won’t ruin a person’s hard drive, he said.

“We spent time listening to students to see what they wanted to use,” Weiner said. “It’s pretty much what makes us different than everyone else.”

Ruckus, which has been in business about three years, started its subscription services with eight universities last year. Now, they have 20 and expect to gain more popularity in the future.

UW-Eau Claire’s Director of Libraries Bob Rose said the service may reduce the amount of illegal downloading at Eau Claire, but he doesn’t think it will stop completely.

About five years ago, the university would receive about 25 copyright violations each year. Now, Eau Claire receives 25 violations a month.

“Because students can still receive music without paying for it, I feel they’ll still … do that,” Rose said. “(Ruckus is) definitely a benefit. It helps protect students as well as the university.”

The efforts of the Information Technology Commission and its former director, M. Scott Olson, brought Ruckus to Eau Claire. Olson said he received a few e-mails requesting a legal downloading service on the campus, which prompted him and ITC to look into one.

“Usually at ITC, we hear from students when something is broken,” he said. “It was nice to have some (proactive feedback) from students.”

One of Ruckus’ top benefits is the ability to look at another friend’s music library and download it, said Zac Selmo, a Ruckus, a product manager.

This allows friends to share with other friends and ultimately enhance each other’s music libraries.

“It really has become a service of sharing,” Weiner said.

Even though Ruckus files can be transferred to newer MP3 players like the Creative Zen or the Samsung Yepp, iPods and older MP3 models can’t accept them because they are in Windows Media format. That also means they cannot be burnt onto a CD, Olson said.

Subscribers will have to purchase the files on their computer if they intend to burn them or transfer them to MP3 players that can’t handle Window Media files, Weiner said. Each song costs between 79 and 99 cents.

Senior Myra Schoen, who had no prior knowledge of the service, said even with the costs, it seems like a great service to keep students up-to-date on music and new, incoming bands.

“They do have some great plans,” Schoen said.

After the subscription ends, students have 30 days to reactivate it or their unpaid music will deactivate until they do, Weiner said. Ruckus, however, does have alumni plans, extended plans and summer services.

“It’s a really exciting service,” Selmon said. “I think that it’s going to kind of change the way people use media on campuses.”