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Campaign addresses illegal downloads

Amanda Gray | Thursday, April 7, 2011

A campaign to inform students about illegal file sharing began recently, Robert Casarez, assistant director of the Office of Resident Life and Housing (ORLH), said Wednesday.

The campaign, held in conjunction with the Office of Information Technology (OIT) and help from the Office of General Counsel (OGC), launched this week to educate students about the consequences of engaging in illegal file sharing, Casarez said.

“We would like to take a proactive approach on the issue rather than waiting for the violations,” he said. “Over the last year, the number of copyright infringement notices that the University has received has more than doubled, and we are aiming to keep as many students out of the disciplinary process as possible for these types of violations.”

Casarez said the University does not actively look for illegal file sharing, but ORLH “conservatively estimates” more than 40 percent of the student population is engaging in illegal downloading or sharing of copyrighted material on the University’s network at any given time. This year alone, the University has received more than 800 copyright infringement notices.

Illegal file sharing is defined as the downloading or sharing of copyrighted material without having purchased or received expressed permission from the copyright owner, Casarez said. File sharing is monitored on the internet by major organizations, such as the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America.

“These organizations then send a copyright infringement notice to our Digital Millennium Copyright Act representative in the OGC, which is then forwarded on to our office for identification,” Casarez said. 

“Illegal sharing or downloading is traceable, and once the student responsible is identified, they are notified by our office of the violation.”

Casarez said the most common violations come from students using peer-to-peer file sharing websites, such as BitTorent.

“While some may not know the scope of their actions, they are indeed violating the law and University policy,” Casarez said. “Students can face legal action from one of these outside organizations for violating copyright law.”

Besides breaking federal laws, illegal file sharing breaks some University rules, too, he said.

“Not only is this type of file sharing illegal, it is against the University’s Responsible Use of Information Technologies Policy,” Casarez said. “First time violators are notified of the violation via a letter from our office which requests that they cease any illegal downloading or sharing or face a disciplinary conference with our office. Continued violations can result in the loss of access to the University’s network resources and/or a substantial fine.”

Casarez said the current campaign is not meant to crack down on student violations, but rather to educate students about the legalities of internet downloading.

“We will continue to react to those notices the University receives, but we hope that this campaign will cut down on the number of notices by informing the students that this is happening,” he said.

Casarez said students should look for alternatives to illegal file sharing to avoid the possible consequences.

“One of the more recent trends is the downloading of television shows,” he said. “While most people assume that if they can watch the episode on their TV or online for free that they can download it legally on a peer-to-peer program like Limewire, it is in fact illegal,” he said. “Streaming video websites like Hulu compensate the copyright holders and creators via the money they make from advertising, which makes viewing the material on their site legal.”

Visit oit.nd.edu for further questions on the Responsible Use of Information Technologies Policy.