Download Debacle: 16 Students Cited For Illegal Internet Use

Downloaded a couple of songs off KaZaa a year ago and just forgot about them? Well, the illegal files can just come back and haunt you. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) warned 16 Colgate students of their recent crackdown starting last week and started a lawsuit against one of them. “It was completely ridiculous. I stopped using KaZaa a year ago, but I left 20 or so Top 40 songs in my folder, so they were still shared on the network,” Katie Stark said. “I had to talk to Dean Noel Bisson, and got a disciplinary warning. I also removed KaZaa and all of the shared files from my computer.” Software and music piracy has always been an integral part of life on the web – especially on college campuses where students can take advantage of the top-notch network facilities. According to the latest statistics, one filesharing program called BitTorrent accounts for more than one-third of the internet traffic of the entire globe, and the unofficial estimates of SOURCe show similar figures. However, the recording industry got tired of their steadily declining incomes and decided to take demonstrative action against those who decide not to pay for their favorite songs. Since the beginning of October, the RIAA filed more than 15 hundred lawsuits against college students and sent out thousands of warnings. Several colleges in the area also came under fire, such as SUNY Morrisville and Hamilton College. “There has been letters from the recording industry coming in from every week. This looks scary.” one SOURCe worker commented. Copyright problems are more common than anybody would think. Director of SOURCe Judy Doherty explained that every once in a while, a copyright owner would notify Colgate that somebody uploaded protected material to the Colgate network. One of the recent catches, for example, was the complete novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance on one of the students’ personal webpages. In these cases, material is removed from the servers within days. “When we are notified of a copyright violation, the request typically comes as a “cease and desist,” which means remove the copyrighted material and stop doing what you’re doing,” Doherty said. “Because it may take time to notify the copyright offender of the problem, we block Internet access. This protects the offender from another probe that could find them guilty of continuing to violate copyright law. This policy protects the offender until appropriate measures can be taken.” The 16 students who got away with a warning can consider themselves lucky: if the RIAA decides to file a lawsuit against them, Colgate cannot do anything to protect them. The school is required by law to identify those who are accused of violating copyright laws. Hardcore downloaders are not the only ones who should feel threatened warned Sean Willer, who was sharing less than 20 songs in KaZaa. “Some of the students I meet here are absolutely flabbergasted,” said Bisson. “They just don’t understand what is happening to them.” Willer claims to have downloaded less than 20 songs since coming to Colgate, though he was sharing his songs on the Net. “I understand the RIAA’s actions – after all, they have been losing a lot of money because of filesharing. It is fair that they warned me instead of filing a lawsuit right away,” said Willer. “Since this happened, I’ve told people about my troubles and people suddenly realize that they, too, can get caught.” On the other hand, students with an up-to-date knowledge on the dark side of the internet claim to use a program that disguises their machine’s IP and MAC addresses so they cannot be identified – and continue sharing files. Computer literacy can be a real plus in avoiding trouble.The student sued by RIAA most likely will not have to face serious disciplinary action at Colgate. “[The students] should not be afraid of getting into trouble at the school. This is a really minor issue compared to the trouble they would get in a lawsuit, having to hire lawyers, settle the case and pay compensation,” Dean Bisson said. Whoever is caught can expect to lose the money he or she has been saving up for a new car. In the first set of lawsuits filed in 2003, four students of various universities agreed to pay 15 000 dollars each to compensate for damages.