Downloaders beware: Policy punishes pirates

Tony Gorder

Tony GorderEditor-in-Chief

In the digital age, you don’t need to have a peg-leg or an eye patch to be considered a pirate. You just need an Internet connection.

“Everyone I talk to says they [download illegally],” said an anonymous freshman electrical engineering major.

A freshman German major said she has not downloaded any music yet, but only because she couldn’t get the popular peer-to-peer file-sharing client Limewire to work. However, she said she would download if she could get it working and isn’t afraid of being caught.

“It is stealing,” she said. “Obviously it’s wrong, but … I’m not above it.”

SDSU’s Student Digital Millennium Copyright Act policy was modified in the fall of 2009 to comply with changes to the DMCA that took effect July 2010.

The current policy is to promptly process and investigate alleged copyright infringement and take actions under the DMCA.

The first offense for copyright infringement results in a $25 fine and requires participation in a DMCA education awareness program. Second time offenders must pay a $50 fine and are suspended from SDSU Internet connectivity for three days.

Third offenses warrant a $100 fine and a permanent loss of SDSU Internet use. Charges are filed with the Office of Student Conduct and disciplinary action is sought.

“We have to have technology in place8212;policies like that in place, which is what we’ve stepped up, and you’ve got to show you’re proactive about the approach,” said Michael Adelaine, vice president for information technology, in regards to changes in the DMCA.

SDSU does not seek out violations but rather blocks blacklisted sites and peer-to-peer clients, as well as limits questionable bandwidth. D2L and other university-related sites are given maximum bandwidth, while peer-to-peer traffic8212;legitimate or illegitimate as it is not directly monitored by SDSU8212;is choked down.

“We just lower the bandwidth,” Adelaine said. “We’re very passive in this. We’ve got our policy, and as a university, we decided that would be our approach.”

Some peer-to-peer clients, like BitTorrent, are not completely blocked because they have educational and research applications.

The university takes direct action only when it receives a take-down notice from the recording or movie industry stating that someone has violated copyright law and should be dealt with.

Elizabeth Fox, digital information service librarian and copyright compliance officer, directly receives these take-down notices via e-mail.

Fox estimated that she receives hundreds of notices from the music and movie industry per semester. She did not have the exact number at the time of publication, but Fox said her estimation was lower, if anything.

Fox forwards the notices to the help desk manager to determine who is responsible for violations. Disciplinary actions in accordance with SDSU’s student DMCA policy are then taken. No names are given out to the recording or movie industry.

“We’ve been asked before for student names, and the university has said we’re not going to give that out,” Adelaine said, adding industries seemed content with SDSU handling punishments.

According to Fox, SDSU has had only one second-offender, while all others have stopped after being punished for their first offense.

“We’ve only had a handful that knew it…The majority of our folks didn’t realize,” Adelaine said. “The vast majority of them are really unaware.”

Fox said Hilton M. Briggs Library is working on making a copyright drop-in session available for all students so they can be informed, and she wished the issue could somehow be addressed to all students.

“It’s not that they don’t know what they’re doing,” Fox said. “They don’t know what they’re doing is wrong.”

Adelaine said the issue is not critical.

“It is not a real large issue,” he said. “If I look at the bandwidth, the majority of it is appropriate usage, by far. Well over 80 percent is appropriate. That other percent, I couldn’t tell you in that if it is or not.”

Fox had a clear message for those who knowingly download music and movies: Stop.

“One it’s illegal. Two, it’s dangerous for your computer. Three, think of the artists who made those songs,” Fox said. She encouraged students to find legal channels, like iTunes, to get their music.

#1.1573192:2315010546.jpg:The ramped up piracy policy is making students think twice before downloading copyrighted material.:The ramped up piracy policy is making students think twice before downloading copyrighted material.:COLLEGIAN PHOTO BY RYAN ROBINSON