Ruckus Network, operators of the Ruckus digital music network designed for college students, has thrown open the doors of its service to all U.S. students. Beginning today, any U.S. student with a valid
.edu email address can sign up for free, immediate access to Ruckus; previously, access had been limited to students at schools who had contractual agreements with Ruckus to provide music to their student bodies.
“Free and legal digital music has just become broadly available to the most active and engaged music consumer group on the planet,” said Michael Bebel, Ruckus President and CEO, in a statement. “This is a major milestone for Ruckus, but much more importantly, for the growing community of college and university students and faculty we have been interacting with for the past three years. We look forward to providing the same great user experience with an incredible library of content, to an even greater number of users nationwide.”
In addition to free music from a library of over 2.1 million tracks, Ruckus also offers its members social networking features, so they can set up and maintain user profiles, comment boards, and playlists of their favorite (or not-so-favorite) music. Ruckus says several hundred thousands college students have joined Ruckus since its launch, and, by throwing open the doors of the service to all U.S. college students, they expect usership to increase substantially. Ruckus has commercial agreements with more than 100 schools; it’s not clear at this point whether those contracts are null-and-void, or whether those schools will continue paying for a service which is now free to schools which had no agreement with Ruckus. Schools signed with Ruckus do enjoy faster downloads enabled by local network facilities and access to video content as well as music.
In the last few years a handful of services like Napster and Ruckus have catered to college campuses as a way to offer students easy access to commercial music—and thus reduce the campus’s liability from copyright infringement lawsuits from their students illegally downloading music via campus networks. However, the services have met with mixed response from students, some of whom don’t like the selection or support—the services don’t work with Apple’s popular iPod media players—and students often get a rude awakening when they graduate, transfer, take a leave of absence, or otherwise leave campus: all their music stops working. But still: free is free.