Napster may be dead, but the music-sharing industry is still popular at UCSB and music industry companies are doing their best to stop individual downloading.
The Record Industry Association has been notifying students on campuses nationwide who have been caught illegally sharing music files through programs such as Morpheus and Aimster to cease their activities. Under the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, copyright holders can require anyone sharing their materials to stop doing so. The most common method of distribution is through MP3s, a file format used to store music digitally.
At UCSB, over 50 notices have been sent to students caught sharing copyrighted music since the beginning of this Fall Quarter, ResNet Coordinator Curtis Cline said. The Record Industry Association sends their notices to ResNet, the Internet service provider for the campus. The ResNet staff then contacts the student with the illegally shared material on their computer and if the material is not removed within 24 hours, the student’s ResNet access can be shut down.
Asst. Director of Housing and Residential Services George Gregg said ResNet does not monitor music-sharing at all, but that the music industry has no such inhibitions.
“We don’t believe in monitoring the network as a matter of principle,” he said. “We aren’t Big Brother, but that is not the attitude the copyright holders have.”
The Electron Trail
Many students do not even realize that they are sharing the files on their computer, which can then be downloaded by others on the network, Cline said.
“They’re running a program on their computer that allows them to gather and find music,” he said. “But what a lot of students don’t realize is it catalogues the music on their computer, searches the hard drive, finds all the music and offers it to the Internet for download.”
Because these programs also display the Internet protocol address from which the files are being downloaded, it is very easy for people from the music industry to search for a popular song and record the addresses of the people who have it.
“The tracing-back art is very simple,” Cline said.
Students who download popular songs such as those in the Top 40 or those from recently released CDs are the most likely to get in trouble, because the industry is more likely to search those songs. Freshman film studies major Clayton Sakoda was sent a note after he downloaded music from the new Incubus album.
“I have lots of songs on my computer and never gotten any notice whatsoever, and then one day I came back to my room and there’s a notice on my door. They had a list of songs I had downloaded, but it was all Incubus songs and they had the exact file names,” he said. “They were monitoring that closely.”
Although downloading files is illegal, it is possible to avoid being noticed, Gregg said. Because students can only be caught serving or providing files, they can turn off the sharing option on their computers to avoid negative sanctions and retain the ability to download.
“[The students] could still have their MP3s on their computer, but if they aren’t sharing it to the world, they’re invisible,” Gregg said.
Copyright Infringement Defined by the DMCA
As a service provider, ResNet is required to comply with the copyright holders and restrictions set by the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Cline said.
“If we didn’t take the actions that we are required to take under the DMCA, we could be in very serious trouble,” he said. “The DMCA provides protection to service providers. As long as [we] service providers conform to the rules they’ve laid out, it limits our responsibility and liability. That’s why we have to take it very seriously.”
The DMCA defines infringement as an action in which an individual or group “makes, has made, or imports, for sale or use in trade, any infringing article” or “sells or distributes for sale or for use in trade any such infringing article.”
An infringing article is “any article the design of which has been copied from a design protected under this chapter [of the DMCA], without the consent of the owner of the protected design.”
While students are told that they must remove specific music files once they have been contacted or be disconnected, the consequences for continued sharing are vague. Undeclared freshman Diana Pedder received notification on two separate occasions that music she had was illegal.
“They said if it happens again they might have to turn off my whole Internet,” she said, “But it happened again and they still haven’t. I just stopped sharing after that and haven’t had any problems since.”
UC Berkeley, which has also experienced problems with students’ illegal downloads, follows the same ResNet procedure when the Record Industry Association gives them notification of music sharing on campus, Gregg said.
“But they haven’t had a surge of notifications, or at least haven’t noticed a surge like we’ve had,” he said.
Another side effect of illegal file-sharing is the cyber slow-downs that many students have experienced when people worldwide logon to download files, sometimes unbeknownst to the student, Gregg said.
“One of the key pieces of information we’d like to get across to the students is that by sharing their music, they’re cutting their own throats,” he said. “If all our students who are serving music stopped doing it, the performance of their ResNet would go up dramatically.”