File-sharing on campus under fire with latest ban of Limewire

Everybody loves free stuff. And if the file-sharing community is any indication, college students are far from the exception to this rule.

Peer-to-peer file-sharing, a form of networking that allows computers to directly communicate and share information with one another, has long afforded students at campuses worldwide the benefits of shared media, in both legal and illegal forms.

Although many of these types of services can be utilized to share uncopyrighted material, peer-to-peer applications have long come under pressure due to their use in the illegal pirating of media.

In their latest blow against file-sharing, the Recording Industry Association of America won its court battle against Limewire. This popular, easy-to-use service has had its file-sharing capabilities shut down — a fate many other similar sites have faced.

Despite the recent victory, companies are still vigorously protecting their copyrighted material, extending their reach into college campuses to combat illegal file-sharing by students.

At Campus Information Technologies and Education Services (CITES) Brian Mertz, communications specialist, said that from the beginning of the fall semester until the end of October, there have been 314 infringement complaints sent to the University by these companies. Of these, the most numerous complaints are about movies and television shows being pirated, followed by music downloads and a small number of software infringements.

“This year, there was early move-in in the dorms on Wednesday, and by that Wednesday night, we already had copyright notices about people who were file-sharing in the dorms,” Mertz said.

Keshav Saharia, freshman in LAS, ran into trouble when he downloaded the movie “Shrek” from ThePirateBay.org, and subsequently had he and his roommates’ Internet cut off. But these punitive measures were short-lived.

“I just had to talk to the RD (residential director), and apologize,” Saharia said.

It was just another two days until he and his roommates had the connection to their room restored.

“Just seeing how easy the process to have my Internet turned back on, it just shows that they don’t care about illegal downloading,” Saharia said.

Mertz reiterates that it is the responsibility of those who create the copyrighted material to protect it.

“Copyright law says that the person who owns the copyright is in charge of protecting it,” Mertz said. “Police aren’t going to go out and do that, the federal government isn’t going to go out and do that, and in our case, we simply don’t have the resources to proactively watch everything that’s happening on our network.”

Instead, record and production companies hire agencies to act as investigators who track the misuse of the company’s copyrighted material and the University is obligated to respond to complaints that are sent by these “authorized agents.”

“HBO has a very active copyright group, and they do watch college networks, especially when something big is coming up. So when the ‘Sopranos’ finale was coming out, or anytime a show starts up for a new season, we see a spike in infringement notices,” Mertz said.

Upon receiving these infringement notices, CITES simply verifies these complaints, narrowing down the violation to a particular room and forwarding the message to Housing, where students generally go through the same process as Saharia.

But despite the fact that the University and CITES are not on a “warpath,” as Mertz describes it, some students still strive to keep their file-sharing activity under the radar by utilizing proxy servers which allow users to use the Internet anonomyously.

“I filter all of my traffic through a SOCKS proxy,” said Dylan Nugent, freshman in Engineering, who uses file-sharing in the dorms but has not had his Internet revoked. “They have no idea where I’m coming from. If they sent a cease and desist letter, it would probably be to a printer.”