Univ. cracks down on downloads

Melissa Weigel

Prompted by the recent efforts of national music organizations to prohibit illegal file sharing, the Office for University Information Technologies recently e-mailed a warning against this activity to students.

In accordance with national policy, the University warned students against allowing others to download music and other copyrighted material. This sharing, and not the actual downloading of files, violates the University’s policy on Ethical Conduct for Use of Computing and Communication Resources. It states, “violation of federal, state or local laws, including copyright infringement [violates] permissible use of technological resources.”

According to the e-mail sent by UNIT, the University may take disciplinary action against a student if he or she continues to share music after receiving a warning from UNIT.

The University’s actions reflect the growing national trend against illegal file sharing. On Sept. 7, the Recording Industry Association of America, which includes companies like Universal Music Group, BMG, EMI, Sony and Warner Music, filed 261 lawsuits against individuals accused of copyright infringement. Thousands more lawsuits are expected.

Currently, the RIAA is directing its efforts against those who are sharing a large volume of music; all of the individuals in the 261 lawsuits made at least 1,000 songs available to share.

The national backlash against file sharing has caused many students to use caution when file sharing. “I used to share my files, but I received a warning supposedly from the government telling me I had too many files, and I needed to stop,” freshman Mark Wyand said. When he received the notice, Wyand was sharing approximately 500 files.

These lawsuits were made possible through a recent U.S. appeals court ruling which requires Internet providers to identify subscribers suspected of violating copyright laws.

The RIAA also offers a type of amnesty to those individuals who admit to illegally sharing music online. Before being sued, violators can sign an agreement saying that they promise to delete all illegally downloaded music and to refrain from participating in any more illegal file-trading.

Although national copyright laws allow for damages between $750 and $150,000 per song downloaded illegally, the RIAA has settled for $3,000 and $17,000 per case.

Many attribute the 31 percent drop in CD sales since 2000 to the ease of downloading songs and burning CDs.

Movies are also becoming more readily downloaded, and Hollywood executives are monitoring this trend closely. Because movie files are so large and take so long to download, they are not downloaded as often or in as large quantities.

Based on how the lawsuits regarding music play out, Hollywood may also begin to target users illegally sharing movies.

“I used to share files, but I stopped before I came here because I was afraid of what the University would do to me – I had heard about what had happened to students at other universities,” freshman Matt Catalano said.