Illegal downloading on rise

Greg Doyle

Villanova has witnessed a recent surge in the amount of copyrighted media illegally downloaded on campus.

In the Sept. 4 Newswire, UNIT addressed the issue and warned students of the seriousness of copyright infringement.

According to the Newswire, students are apt to disciplinary action under the Code of Student Conduct.

Furthermore, the music or motion picture corporation that owns the rights to the pirated material is subject to bring the copyright infringement to court.

“There already have been 150 incidents since the second week of August,” said Stephen Fugale, Villanova’s Chief Information Officer. “There are usually about 300 in a semester.”

Illegal downloads have existed for nearly a decade, since the launch of Napster and other peer-to-peer programs in the early 2000s.

In 2007, a bill was proposed that would allow colleges to tap into their existing federal funds to find solutions for downloading copyrighted material on campus, according to the Recording Industry Association of America Web site.

The “Curb Illegal Downloading on College Campuses Act of 2007” was never passed into law; however, related legislations are currently pending that would allow universities to prevent any peer-to-peer programs from being installed onto students’ computers on campus, according to Fugale.

“We get notifications from the recording industry or motion picture industry that owns the copyrighted material that’s being downloaded,” Fugale said. “Within that notification is the IP address of the computer that downloaded the song or video.”

“If it’s the first infraction, we’ll send a notification through e-mail to the student,” said Matthew Morrissey, director of Technology Support Services. “Sometimes the student can be sent to the Dean of Students. It’s considered an academic infraction to illegally download media.”

Incidents rarely escalate to anything more severe than a meeting with Fugale or Morrissey, but it’s not unheard of for a student to be fined.

“We try to educate the students on university policies and the legal ramifications that come with downloading illegally,” Morrissey said.

There have been cases in the past where students received a subpoena from the owner of the copyrighted material, although this is uncommon.

“Students believe the notification comes from UNIT,” Fugale said. “It’s actually a legal document from the entertainment corporation that owns the copyright to the song or video.”

Until recently, songs were essentially the only medium being pirated on college campuses.

The number of videos, such as movies and television shows, has risen significantly in the last few years, according to Fugale.

The high volume of media, particularly the videos, being downloaded causes the Internet to slow throughout campus.

According to Morrissey, occupying so much bandwidth is similar to taking a large slice of pie and leaving very little for everyone else.

“The peak times are from 10 at night to two in the morning,” Morrissey said. “The size of the video media is so much larger and it clogs the network.”

Fugale, Morrissey and the rest of the UNIT team have the capability to shape the flow of the Internet on campus. Much like directing traffic, they can free up lanes for those who are using the Internet for academic purposes and keep those who are downloading media stuck in the slower lanes.

The primary concern of UNIT regarding illegal downloading is to inform Villanova students of the consequences that can accompany these copyright infringements.

They address the issue each year at the New Student Orientation and continue to raise awareness throughout the year through videos, door hang tags, e-mails and flyers.

Further information regarding copyright laws is available on the UNIT Web site.