Update: MIT shuts down alternative file-swapping network

Two MIT students who thought they’d found a way to give their fellow students access to a huge music library without running afoul of copyright law hit a snag Oct. 31 when the school shut down the service in the midst of a licensing dispute.

The “LAMP,” or “Library Access to Music” system officially went live Oct. 27, pumping music into dorm rooms over the school’s cable television network. By sending the music over cable, rather than swapping files over the internet, the system avoided making an exact copy of the music and was expected to face lower copyright law hurdles.

The students, Keith Winstein and Josh Mandel, said they had negotiated for the Harry Fox Agency, the mechanical licensing arm of the National Music Publishers Association, to grant a license to a Seattle-based company called Loudeye to sell the school thousands of MP3s for the system.

But even last week as the system prepared to go live, there was confusion. The Harry Fox Agency said no such license was complete, while Loudeye insisted it was.

On Friday, MIT issued a statement saying it was shutting down the system at least temporarily while it pursued clarifications with Loudeye and make sure the system was legal.

“We have taken it down temporarily to show good faith and because the whole point is to be very, very careful and obey the copyright law,” said Winstein, 22, adding he was confident the situation could be resolved.

In its statement, MIT said it was assured by Loudeye that the company was authorized by the record labels to sell the music. But after the service was launched, “Loudeye informed us that some of their assurances may have been mistaken,” the statement said.

A Loudeye spokesman said the appropriate company official to comment could not immediately be reached. Laurie Jakobsen, a spokeswoman for The Harry Fox Agency, said the agency’s position hadn’t changed.

“We have not issued licenses to either MIT or Loudeye,” she said. “We are continuing discussions with them.”

MIT said Universal Music Group, a record label, raised objections with Loudeye over the arrangement. MIT then began discussing the matter directly with other record labels, and decided to put the system on hold.

UMG, a division of Vivendi Universal, issued a statement Friday saying: “It is unfortunate that MIT launched a service in an attempt to avoid paying recording artists, union musicians, and record labels. Loudeye recognized that they had no right to deliver Universal’s music to the MIT service, and MIT acted responsibly by removing the music.

“MIT has now contacted us and apparently recognizes its responsibility to compensate creators for the use of their works. Universal looks forward to discussing how to make that possible.”

MIT said the school “continues to be committed to developing a fully licensed service.”

The students planned to share their plan with other schools, whom they said could emulate the project and give their students access to music while potentially sparing them from lawsuits like those being filed by the recording industry to try to combat illegal file-swapping.


Students claim legal alternative to music file sharing

MIT’s Library Access to Music Project


Schools in 5 more states to benefit from Microsoft settlements

Disadvantaged schools in five more states and the District of Columbia stand to benefit from the latest round of antitrust settlements from Microsoft Corp.

Microsoft agreed to settle class-action antitrust and unfair competition lawsuits brought by customers in these regions for vouchers worth $200 million. The settlements, announced Oct. 28, would end those lawsuits in Kansas, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Tennessee, in addition to Washington, D.C.

The cases involve customers who joined in class actions alleging that Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft violated state antitrust laws and laws against unfair competition.

The Kansas case was settled for $32 million, and the District of Columbia case was settled for $6.2 million, said Brad Smith, Microsoft senior vice president and general counsel. Those two settlements had been approved by the courts.

He did not give figures on settlements for the other four lawsuits, which have yet to be approved by the courts. However, Henry Howe, a Grand Forks, N.D., attorney who was a plaintiff, said the North Dakota case was settled for $9 million pending the court approval.

In all, Microsoft has now settled similar lawsuits in nine states and the District of Columbia for a total of $1.55 billion. Agreements were announced earlier this year for lawsuits in California, Florida, Montana, and West Virginia.

The company said class actions are still pending in Arizona, Iowa, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Wisconsin.

Under the settlements, Microsoft will provide vouchers for customers to purchase hardware, operating systems, training, and software from various vendors, including Microsoft and a key rival, Apple Computer. Half of the unused vouchers will be given to schools in these states to help needy children.

“To look at all this in perspective, it’s clear that we’ve made a good deal of progress in the past year,” Smith said. “And it’s clear that we have to keep focusing, keep moving forward.”

He said the company is working to improve relationships with other companies and with the government.

Microsoft said it has already set aside adequate reserves for the settlements.

“It’s not a hugely significant amount, but it does count against income,” said Matt Rosoff, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft. “With $100 million here and there, it’s somewhat significant when you’re talking about a company with net income of $2.6 billion per quarter.”

Curtis Wolfe, chief information officer for the state of North Dakota, said he anticipates the coupons will represent “a significant windfall” for North Dakota schools, especially given the fact that a tight budget year has precluded educators from spending as much as they would have liked on technology.

“Certainly in North Dakota, we constantly find ourselves challenged to update technology,” he said. Those challenges have grown in recent years as North Dakota has turned to distance learning as a means of broadening the scope of classes available to students in some of the state’s more rural areas.

Forty-three North Dakota school districts, with a total of about 8,300 students, qualify for the settlement based on their number of low-income students. To qualify, at least 50 percent of a district’s students must be eligible for reduced-fee or free lunches under the national school lunch program.

Given that the money can be used by schools to purchase a wide array of technology equipment, Wolfe said educators would welcome the vouchers.

“I am absolutely confident that we’ll make excellent use of this settlement,” he said.


Microsoft Corp.


Funding to improve student proficiency in math, science, and more

AMD’s K-12 initiatives target programs that increase student interest and/or proficiency in literacy, math, science, and computer technology. Because great teachers are the key to successful learning, AMD also funds programs aimed at developing and supporting effective classroom instruction. Applications are due twice a year: May 1 and Dec. 1. Funding decisions are communicated no later than six months following the application deadline.


Funding to support programs that improve student achievement

The State Farm Companies Foundation awards grants to K-12 public schools in the United States and Canada to support the following education initiatives: education reform or curriculum changes that improve student achievement; after-school programs; improving teacher quality; and school-to-work programs. Proposals are accepted year-round and are reviewed in a timely manner. However, approval time depends on the requested amount and completeness of the proposal. Requests exceeding $100,000 are considered quarterly. The foundation accepts one proposal per organization per year. See the foundation’s web site for more details.


Locate computers and equipment donations in your region

Share the Technology is a web site that provides a way for donors and potential recipients to connect no matter where they are in the country. Schools, nonprofit organizations, and individuals can search message boards and databases on the site to find computers and equipment available for free in their region. The web site warns schools and other donation seekers that while some of the equipment is in excellent condition, not all equipment is in good working condition. Therefore, recipients should carefully evaluate the donated items before accepting them.


$1,050 in new hardcover children’s library books

The Libri Foundation is a nationwide nonprofit organization that donates new, high-quality, hardcover children’s books to small, rural public libraries in the United States through its Books for Children program. The books donated through the Books for Children program are used for storytelling; toddler, preschool, and after-school programs; summer reading programs; “book buddy” programs, in which older children read to younger children; holiday programs; teacher check-out and curriculum support; early childhood development programs; school projects; and to just provide children with a “good read.” Applicants’ Friends of Library programs or other local initiatives are expected to contribute up to $350 toward the project, which the Libri Foundation will match on a 2-to-1 ratio. The foundation awards grants three times a year. The application deadlines are March 15, July 15, and Dec. 15.


Free Polaroid cameras and film for innovative visual teaching

The 2003-04 Polaroid Education Program (PEP) Visual Learning Grants provide cameras and film to preK-12 classroom teachers and child care providers who have innovative visual learning ideas for teaching. Grants will be awarded monthly from Oct. 1, 2003 to May 1, 2004. Each month, PEP will award 25 Project Grants consisting of three Polaroid OneStep Cameras and 10 packs of Polaroid Film (totaling 100 images); 10 Classroom Grants consisting of six Polaroid OneStep Cameras and 20 packs of Polaroid Film (totaling 200 images); and five School Grants consisting of 12 Polaroid OneStep Cameras and 40 packs of Polaroid Film (totaling 400 images).


Savings bonds for teachers and students who win an economics face-off

The National Council on Economic Education and the Goldman Sachs Foundation created the National Economics Challenge in 2000 to promote student interest in economics, reinforce classroom instruction, advance academics and school spirit, and reward scholarship. It features three levels of competition–state, regional, and national–and two divisions to enable any student taking an economics course to participate. At each level of competition, student teams face off against one another in answering rigorous questions on microeconomics, macroeconomics, international economics, and current economic events. Winners receive significant prizes and honors, including cash awards, trophies, and medals. Most travel expenses for the regional and national competitions will be paid by NCEE.


$9,000 to create the ‘perfect’ middle school science classroom

The NEC Perfect Classroom Competition is a national competition that will award three middle-school science teachers a total of $9,000 to improve their classrooms and to enhance the learning experience for their students. Teachers are encouraged to submit video essays describing their vision for the perfect classroom. Winners will be selected and announced in conjunction with National Teacher Appreciation Week in May.


$540,000 in SMART in equipment for teacher-recognition programs

The Teaching Excellence Awards sponsor existing teacher-recognition programs through the donation of educational technologies. Developed to ensure that top educational technologies are made available to outstanding teachers, the program will donate more than $540,000 worth of educational technology to teachers this year. The technology includes SMART boards, AlphaSmart’s Dana Palm OS laptop alternative, NEC projectors, and more. Programs that are likely to be supported include Teacher of the Year and Technology Teaching Excellence Awards at state, national, and international levels.