The Recording Industry Association of America has stepped up its campaign against illegal file sharing on campus networks, and some UCSB students are bearing the fines.
Since the start of the academic year, 13 students have received formal notices from the RIAA stating that they faced legal repercussions for engaging in file sharing activities that violate copyright regulations. All of the students who received notifications chose to settle the matter out of court by paying between a $3,000 and $3,500 fine, according to David A. Andreasen, an attorney at the Associated Student Legal Resource Center.
Andreasen said that if a student decides to reject the fine, then the case is filed in court.
“The RIAA can sue you $750 per song, each time it’s transferred,” Andreasen said. “From what I understand, they hire a company that searches on [peer-to-peer file sharing program] LimeWire, or another program, and when they find someone with certain songs they download them to verify their content. Then they would contact the university with a pre-lawsuit notice,” Andreasen said.
As of April last year, UCSB had received just two so-called “preservation notices,” documents that urge the university to preserve evidence related to the alleged downloading before the issue of a letter to the downloader. This year’s notices represent a dramatically increased level of activity.
In reaction to these recent legal measures, the A.S. Legal Resource Center will host a forum on illegal downloading today at 7 p.m. in Embarcadero Hall to address students’ questions and concerns.
According to UCSB’s Office of Information Technology technician Kevin Schmidt, college campuses are major targets of the RIAA.
“It is my guess that the recording industry has largely chosen to focus on universities because you have a high concentration of people who file shared in high school and they want to influence their behavior at this point,” Schmidt said.
Though students on ResNet are generally prevented from using such programs as LimeWire and Ares by administrators who monitor the bandwidth of transfers going off campus and limit them to render the services essentially unusable, workarounds do exist.
Students downloading illegal files in Isla Vista are not subject to the crackdown, as they do not make use of the campus network.
According to Schmidt, DC++ and BitTorrent, two other popular file sharing programs, are not under scrutiny at this time. DC++ operates entirely behind the shield of the campus network, and as such is not visible to RIAA’s representatives. BitTorrent operates through the principle of distributed downloading wherein users acquire tiny pieces of each file from many different sources rather than just one.
According to a RIAA press release, a survey conducted by the Intellectual Property Institute at the University of Richmond’s School of Law found that over 50 percent of college students admit to illegally downloading music and movies.
Official university policy prohibits illegal activity on university networks or computers. The housing contract for students living on campus states that violation of that policy will result in disconnection from the university network — users of the university’s wireless network agree to a similar clause.
In spite of this increased scrutiny, Han Nguyen, a third-year biology major, said he thinks students engage in illegal downloading because they fail to realize the reality of legal consequences.
“There’s just more file sharing today because people think they can get away with it and it would take too much money to catch them all,” Nguyen said.