You’re hanging out in your dorm room, getting ready for a night out. You play the songs you have on your computer – some of which, whether you’d like to admit it or not, have been downloaded illegally.
Unfortunately for companies in the movie and music industries, illegal downloading is easy to accomplish with programs like Direct Connect, Kazaa and Limewire.
From the perspective of a college student tight on cash, why would you spend a dollar per song when you can download them for free? And who gets caught “stealing” songs anyway, right?
Actually, it’s more common than you might think. Industry organizations are looking for offenders, and illegal file sharing is no longer taken lightly on college campuses, Dawn Willan, assistant chief information officer of Information Technology (IT), said.
Music and movie industry organizations, such as the Recording Industry Association of America, are taking action against illegal file sharing. They track the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses of offenders, which are unique for each computer. Fortunately for students, these organizations let the College handle first-time offenders.
The process begins with these organizations contacting the office of Public Affairs with the IP addresses.
“Since I’ve been tracking this information, we have received anywhere from one to five notifications per month,” Willan said.
IT matches these addresses with specific student accounts. IT then locks the students’ account access, making them unable to access the Internet from their computers. IT reports the names to the office of Student Life, which telephones students and asks them to meet with Lynette Harris, director of Community Standards in the office of Student Life.
First-time offenders are let go with a warning. “They generally have no idea why their account has been shut down,” Harris said.
These meetings are face-to-face lessons about illegal downloading and file sharing. Harris asks students to remove the files from their computer. She then explains to students that if they are caught a second time, they may face court time and monetary loss. Consequently, she said she has seen very few repeat offenders.
After informing and warning each student, Student Life contacts IT and the office of Public Affairs. The student’s account is unlocked and the organizations are informed that the College has dealt with the problem.
For some, the hassle of this process is motivation enough to not download illegally. “It would be inconvenient because I wouldn’t have any access to e-mails and couldn’t use AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) to contact people,” Matt Trokan, sophomore secondary education/history major, said.
Illegal downloading also affects the speed of the network on campus. Downloading files, whether legal or illegal, utilizes more bandwidth, or space, on the network. In addition, viruses and worms may find their way into the system through illegal file sharing.
Harris said she believes most students called to her office don’t understand that sharing music is taken so seriously. Presently, the only warning is in the Computing Access Agreement that students read once during their entire time at the College.
When activating their network account, students must accept the Computing Access Agreement. It includes sections on unacceptable conduct and enforcement, stating that “the use of the network is a privilege which can be revoked at any time for abusive conduct. Violators are subject to criminal prosecution and/or disciplinary action through the College judicial structure.”
Harris said her office is trying to find a more creative way to prevent students from breaking the contract. Some of her ideas include pop-up screensavers reminding students of the computing policy and posting announcements on facebook.com.