Napster, Kazaa and Limewire have all had their heyday offering free and illegal music, but students looking to stay within the limits of the law now have a new downloading option.

Last week, digital entertainment service Ruckus Network made its library of over 2 million songs available free of charge to all college students, faculty, and alumni. But certain restrictions on Ruckus’ accessibility — only PC computers are compatible with the software, and no users can download their selections onto an iPod or burn them onto a CD — have put a damper on Yale students’ otherwise enthusiastic response.

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The service originally required individual universities to subscribe, but after sealing agreements with four major record labels to decrease licensing costs, it became available online to anyone with an e-mail address ending in .edu. Yale had no previous arrangement with Ruckus, Chief Information Officer Philip Long said, and although the University has communicated with many college-targeted music services, it has not found any that offered much more to students than what they could access easily on public Web sites.

The only media service the University has an arrangement with is CDigix, which has provided educational multimedia for almost 100 courses at Yale, Long said. While students could subscribe to the service’s CTrax music library for a monthly fee, few took advantage of it.

“We continue to speak with CDigix to see if there might be a way to improve the service to make it more popular with students,” Long said. “Of course, students can directly subscribe to many other services such as Rhapsody from Real Networks or Ruckus.”

While many students responded enthusiastically to the news of Ruckus’ availability, complaints arose over the service’s incompatibility with Macintosh computers.

Theo Spielberg ’10, who estimated that he acquires more than 100 new songs a month either from iTunes or from music blogs where he can find them for free, said he was disappointed when he learned he would not be able to use Ruckus’ new service.

“I have a Mac, and I think that’s really unfortunate,” Spielberg said. “I don’t think it is fair, considering that a large percentage … of the kids on a college campus have Macs.”

Students who will be able to access Ruckus objected to the fact that they will not be able to transfer the music to CDs or iPods.

Ariel Shepherd-Oppenheim ’10 said that putting songs on her iPod is her ultimate goal in downloading music, so Ruckus is “relatively useless.” But the service might be attractive to listeners who want to sample a song before deciding to buy it, she said.

Alex Benenson ’08, editor in chief of the campus music magazine Volume, agreed that Ruckus would be most useful to students as a place to try songs out — a use which he suspects the company did not envision.

“I get the feeling that their intention is for people to build up a library of Ruckus files,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s going to impinge on the market of students downloading illegal music at all.”

Benenson said he was not optimistic about the likelihood of the service succeeding at Yale and around the country, especially given the many restrictions that are imposed on students’ downloaded music. The record labels’ agreement with Ruckus, Benenson said, may just be the latest in a series of attempts by record companies to stem the tide of college students downloading illegal music.

“There’s this idea that the music industry should be protected and that the Internet is destroying the music industry,” he said. “But that’s the nature of progress. Old markets become obsolete.”

The service will be supported by advertising on its Web site and on the software used to download and play the songs.