Earlier this month, The Ruckus Network, an online music streaming service designed to fight illegal file sharing on college campuses, abruptly shut down. According to an article from Tech Crunch, the closing came because Total Music, the joint venture between Sony BMG and Universal Music Group that acquired Ruckus last year, is also struggling. Total Music acquired Ruckus with the intention of using the technology for the back-end of a music streaming service for Facebook however it is not likely that this deal will happen now because both companies can not agree to the terms. Facebook is not willing to share revenue and user data in return for free music and Warner Music has refused to join in the agreement with the other major music labels.
This announcement has left over 1,000 universities that were registered in the Ruckus system wondering what to do next because as an article in PC Mag explains, the Higher Education Opportunity Act requires that students using university networks are given an alternative to popular P2P sharing networks. However the law does not currently explain what measures would be considered an appropriate alternative and now the U.S. Department of Education is working to define the terms, a task that could take several months. Additionally, the remaining leading service, the Choruss initiative which is backed by Warner Music Group, is not currently available because many details including pricing still need to be worked out.
The music industry is now tasked with determining an affordable solution for universities to participate in, as the fight to stop illegal file sharing on campus continues. The tough part is coming up with a pricing model that works for all parties. As Jason Herskowitz, Vice President of Project Management at TotalMusic explained on his blog soon after the Ruckus announcement, “I only hope that someone else figures out how to crack this music-on-the-web nut in a way that is a win for everyone in the value chain. The problem is that to make a music service a win for everyone, then all of the famished participants have to sit at the table - and be content to let all the others have a little bit to eat, even though they are still hungry themselves.”