It’s easy. Endless movies, music and television shows downloaded in minutes to your computer, free of charge. Problem? It’s illegal, and the College is taking action. In an e-mail to the campus community, Nadine Stern, vice president for Information Technology and Enrollment Services, announced potential consequences awaiting users of the popular file sharing software, Direct Connect (DC++). Students discovered using the program might face “disciplinary action by the College and substantial financial liability to the copyright owners,” the e-mail warned.
The program, which has disappeared from Facebook, enabled students to access files on other hard drives connected to the local network. Allen Bowen, manager of information technology security, said DC++ runs on a server component that acts as a directory that indicates other computers connected to the local network. A majority of the computers connected to the network were found to be student residents.
According to Bowen, an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education detailing the widespread use of DC++ at the College inspired action. An anonymous senior at the College reported in the article that one third of students on campus are engaged in DC++. Matthew Golden, executive director of public relations and communication, said that because DC++ is not administered or monitored by the College, the number of students using it is unknown.
“That interview made it clear that DC++ is being used in ways that are in violation of both copyright law and campus policy,” Golden said in an e-mail. “We, therefore, needed to take action at this time.” Golden said on a first offense, a student’s account will be blocked by IT until the student has a case conference and can prove to IT that he or she has removed the files. The student may also receive an official warning. Repeated or more serious offenses, he said, may result in probationary status.
In addition to violating copyright law, the file-sharing program restricts the total available bandwidth, which could potentially cause other peer-to-peer applications on the Internet unusable, Stern said in the e-mail. In an effort to comply with the Higher Education Opportunity Act regarding “peer-to-peer file sharing on campus networks” violating copyright law, according to the College’s compliance page on its website, information technology (IT) is working to route out DC++ on campus.
“We have several mechanisms to detect (DC++) use … We have put in additional technical controls enforcing the computer access agreement,” Bowen said. He declined to elaborate on the specific mechanisms. Golden said no student files on personal machines or resources provided by IT have been involved.
Many students aren’t happy about the program’s disappearance. A junior history major at the College and avid former DC++ user, who asked to remain anonymous, said he has deleted the software for fear of legal consequence. He said the program has potential for legal uses, such as sharing projects and information with peers.
“I don’t think they should shut down the whole program just because some people are breaking the law,” he said. “I was operating under the assumption that people have the legal rights to it … at least that’s what I’ll say.”
Katie Brenzel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.