Amanda C. Wade, 20, a sophomore economics major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, admits to being a pirate.
“I play music on my computer every day that was downloaded illegally,” she wrote in an April 25 email interview.
She has no credit card or PayPal account, she said. So she uses illegal methods to get music for free – for example, by using file converters and media players that go between multiple computers.
“I would feel bad charging, essentially, my parents for music purchases that I could easily get illegally,” she continued in the email interview. “And not cost them more money on top of books and tuition and groceries.
Wade is among the nearly two-thirds of IUP students who said in responses to an April 18 email survey that they illegally download copyrighted music and other media, as defined by U.S. copyright law. Nearly one-third of respondents said they download digital media illegally “multiple times a week.”
Illegal downloading of music is widespread on the IUP campus, said Zachary J. Stiegler, Ph.D., communications media professor at IUP and the faculty adviser for WIUP-FM.
“I would assume that the vast majority of students engage in some level of music piracy,” Stiegler said in a March 26 interview in his office.
No IUP department polices music piracy. But according to William S. “Bill” Balint, the campus’ chief information officer in the Information Technology Department, the university monitors its computer networks in two ways:
- It watches the volume of activity on IUP networks. If the network gets sluggish, the department looks into the problem.
- It receives notices alleging violations of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Most complaints that the department receives come from the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America.
Rarely do students tattle on each other about illegal music or video downloading and sharing, Balint said.
If a student is suspected of illegally using music on an IUP network, the university will disable the student’s network access, according to IUP’s File Sharing FAQ webpage. To regain access, the student must sign a promise not to share files illegally on an IUP network and pay a $30 fine. The student also could face university judicial sanctions.
“Typically, you’re talking an RIAA take-down-notice scenario,” Balint said in an April 4 interview in his office.
In 2009, the department received 190 notices of DMCA copyright violations, according to the department’s records. In 2012, the department received 32, an 83 percent drop. (See sidebar, below.)
Pundits attribute the precipitous decline to a variety of reasons ranging from technology to policy. Balint attributed the decline to improvements in tools and security procedures that can match sophisticated copyright violators.
“There was a time in the original Napster days where it was a complete free-for-all,” he said.
But his department is not trying to police IUP networks, Balint said.
“Our job is not to be the Big Brother of piracy,” he said.
THAT JOB belongs to the RIAA. In 2007, the music-industry association brought a nationally reported lawsuit against a student who it said committed music piracy.
At the time of the alleged offense, Tenenbaum was an undergraduate at Goucher College. He has since earned a Ph.D. from Boston University. The case started with Tenenbaum “defending my actions as a teenager,” he said in a May 22, 2012, interview with Southern California Public Radio.
The corporations accused Tenenbaum of illegally downloading and sharing thousands of songs from 1999 to at least 2007, according to documents from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.
This is a common story for the RIAA. It has sued thousands of university students for alleged illegal file-sharing and downloading. Between January 2004 and October 2007, RIAA companies filed at least 30,000 lawsuits, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
In 2007, IUP received four subpoenas, according to the university.
However, most of the RIAA lawsuits were defaulted or settled out of court, sometimes for as little as $3,000 and as much as $11,000, according to the EFF.
AT IUP, Wade isn’t fazed by the potential for such penalties.
“Of course I’m not afraid of getting caught!” Wade said in the interview. “If anyone was going to be caught and made an example of, I would expect it to be the webmasters of those servers, the ones who get advertising revenue and process thousands of songs a day.”
To date, Wade guessed, she’s downloaded hundreds of songs on her laptop.
“Maybe 1,000,” she said. “Not more than 10,000.”
However, Wade added, she downloads only “big-name artists” on “big-name labels.”
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Originally published by The Hawk Eye