UI, RIAA punish illicit downloads

By Michael Logli

The Recording Industry Association of America has never hidden the fact that it pursues those who illegally download music or movies from file-sharing systems or peer-to-peer networks. But with finals week coming up and summer vacation right around the corner, the RIAA has become much more aggressive, said Brian Mertz, University communications specialist.

Campus Information Technology and Educational Services has received more than 100 notices regarding illegal downloads within the last few days, which easily surpasses the total number of notices received throughout the rest of the year, Mertz said. Because of finals week, a student’s ability to study or turn in final papers could be extremely hampered by lack of Internet access, Mertz said.

“It’s really been occurring the last few weeks of school,” Mertz said. “The odds of being caught seem to have jumped.”

On Saturday, Michael Corn, director of security services and information privacy, sent a mass e-mail to University students warning them about the dangers of being caught for illegal file sharing. If caught, University students face the loss of network access and student code violations.

Even with these punishments, Mertz said the RIAA might still sue the students for thousands of dollars.

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    “If it’s within our realm, we can follow up on it,” Mertz said. “We can’t look the other way.”

    CITES does not monitor each individual student’s computer for illegal file sharing. The RIAA and other corporations look at the traffic of uploads and downloads connected to each IP address, or a computer’s identification number, on the network.

    If they notice illegal file sharing, they record the time and date of the infraction and send the complaint to the network owners to confirm it.

    However, Mertz said there is a possibility that the accuser could be incorrect, and network history indicates the inconsistency. If the accuser is correct, network access is immediately cut.

    However, because the network only tracks the IP address, both students in a double room in a residence hall will have access cut, even if only one was illegally downloading files, Mertz said.

    After network access is cut, the student must then go through the Office of Student Conflict Resolution, said Brian Farber, office director. The student is required to meet with an office official and discuss the repercussions of illegal downloading on both the University and the student, such as overloading the network and monetary damages. The student then must remove all copyrighted material and the downloading software from his computer before he is allowed back onto the network.

    Farber said he has seen no repeat offenders since coming to the University more than two years ago, but the second infraction could lead to permanent removal from network access.

    “We don’t dismiss people,” Farber said. “It has a large number of unintended consequences.”

    Joey Lee, freshman in Business, has used Ares, a peer-to-peer file-sharing program, since the beginning of the Napster controversy, when Napster was sued by musicians claiming copyright infringement.

    Though out of town when the mass e-mail was sent, Lee said the warning has not affected his use at all. He said he sees nothing wrong with the act and still buys compact discs of his favorite bands to support them.

    “It’s normal for everyone to do it,” Lee said.

    For some students, Mertz said the punishment from the University and RIAA might outweigh the pleasure of having a new song.

    “Can you really afford to function without access?” Mertz said.