E-mail warns against illegal downloads

By Lisa Chung

In the best interest of students, the Office of the Provost sent out an e-mail on March 31 warning students of the dangerous consequences of illegally downloading music and movies.

The e-mail stated that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) will begin specifically targeting college campuses to hunt down students who are violating copyright laws.

“When (the RIAA, MPAA and other organizations) believe a copyright violation has been taking place, they send us a notice,” said Michael Corn, director of Security Services and Information Privacy at the University.

These notices state the specific time and IP address a certain music or movie file the organization believes was downloaded, Corn said.

There are an average of 12 notices received a month from such organizations, he said. However, all of these notices do not necessarily denote an illegal download, he added.

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“(After we receive a notice,) we go and see if anything actually did take place at all at that point in time from that IP address,” he said. “If we show that this IP address transferred a big hunk of data at that point in time, then the (organizations) are usually right.”

When a student has been caught downloading illegally, his or her computer is removed from the network so that the student cannot log into the Internet, Corn added. Xavier Woo, freshman in LAS, was caught illegally downloading a movie in one of the residence halls.

“A week after I downloaded the movie, the Internet in my room was turned off,” said Woo. “An e-mail was sent out to my other two roommates and it was up to us three to figure out who downloaded the movie.”

After Woo admitted he had downloaded the movie, he was required to speak to the resident director, he said.

“The people in Housing go to the person directly and see if the content is on the computer,” Corn said. “They make them delete it, or remove the software (used to download).”

When Woo spoke with the resident director of his residence hall, the resident director explained that this was a “safety precaution” to help students so that the organizations will not sue them. So, if anyone downloads illegally in Woo’s room again, the Internet would be turned off for the remainder of the semester.

According to the RIAA and MPAA, the top 25 music and movie piracy schools include those that receive about 400 to 1,200 notices a year. The University averages 144 notices a year.

Corn believes the low number of notices at the University is because the University does a “pretty good job” of telling people about the problem, and does respond “aggressively” when caught.

“It’s a way the University protects the students,” Woo said.

“(Downloading has become) a cultural thing. It’s just so common,” Corn said. “Unfortunately, it’s one of those things that people don’t realize how much trouble they can get into, until they get caught.”

Top 25 Movie Piracy Schools

Number of notices the Motion Picture Association of America sends out in a given year

1. Columbia University – 1,198

2. University of Pennsylvania – 934

3. Boston University – 891

4. University of California at Los Angeles – 889

5. Purdue University – 873

6. Vanderbilt University – 860

7. Duke University – 813

8. Rochester Institute of Technology – 792

9. University of Massachusetts – 765

10. University of Michigan – 740

11. University of California at Santa Cruz – 714

12. University of Southern California – 704

13. University of Nebraska at Lincoln – 637

14. North Carolina State University – 636

15. Iowa State University – 586

16. University of Chicago – 575

17. University of Rochester – 562

18. Ohio University – 550

19. University of Tennessee – 527

20. Michigan State University – 506

21. Virginia Polytechnic Institute – 457

22. Drexel University – 455

23. University of South Florida – 447

24. Stanford University – 405

25. University of California at Berkeley – 398

Source: Ars Technica: The Art of Technology