Students ask for more info on file sharing penalties

Jennie Kushner

Students dislike the lack of effort the University has taken to alert students of the consequences of illegal file sharing.

On Sept. 24, the Office of Information Technology sent out an e-mailed statement to all students, informing them of the consequences and qualifications for illegal file sharing on the University’s networks.

“The University punishment of students downloading music and file sharing is excessive for the amount of awareness that students have involving the downloading of music on campus,” said Jeptha Tanskley, a junior majoring in political science.

Ashley Ewing, director of information security and compliance at the OIT, said the OIT sees a spike in illegally downloaded music in the fall.

“In August there were less than five instances a week,” he said. “One week in September there were 35 instances, but it dropped to seven a week. It keeps us very busy.”

Ewing said the Higher Education Opportunity Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act work together to seek out illegal file sharing at universities across the nation.

Ewing said the University is forced to take such actions due to federal policies on file sharing.

“I get so many e-mails that are school related. I never really pay that much attention to them,” said Caroline Krauser, a senior majoring in public relations.

“Students could get in so much trouble from file sharing,” Karuser said. “The University needs to work harder to alert students of the possible consequences.”

According to the Judicial Affairs website, the first instance of copyright infringement results in deactivation of a student’s network portal. Judicial Affairs is notified, and the student receives a warning letter via e-mail.

The student must also send a reply stating the steps they have taken to remove programs and files from their computer.

A second instance of copyright infringement results in another warning letter and Judicial Affairs issues a summons letter for violation of the Code of Student Conduct. The users network portal is also deactivated, according to the website.

The student also receives disciplinary warnings and verification from Seebeck that software and files have been removed.

Students must take their computers to the HelpDesk and pay a $70 fee to have their computer checked, Ewing said.

Once sanctions are complete the user’s network portal will be turned back on.

A third instance of copyright infringement results in a summons letter for violation of the Code of Student Conduct, and the user’s network portal is deactivated.

This type of sanction varies according to the facts of the incident. Sanction can range from probation to limited or loss of computer privileges, according to the website.

According to the e-mailed statement from the University, a student could receive jail time or criminal penalties if caught file sharing illegally.

If found guilty of criminal copyright infringement, offenders may face a five-year prison sentence and up to $250,000 fine per each work infringed, the e-mail said.

“I think it is simply ridiculous that a student can get in this much trouble for downloading music and not even be alerted on the university’s policies,” said Taylor Hess, a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering. “What effort has the University taken to alert us beside sending out some generic e-mail?”

“I feel that in order to enforce a rule so strictly and to come down on students so severely, the existence of the rule should be better publicized,” said Matthew Carroll, a junior majoring in business finance.

Todd Borst in the office of judicial affairs said students should know the policies of file sharing.

“Understand what the rules are and know that if it seems illegal, it usually is,” he said. “If you are not purchasing the music, video game or video then chances are you are stealing.”