Music piracy rampant on campus

Students at Northern Kentucky University will want to think twice before exchanging or downloading copyrighted music over the Internet.

The Office of Information Technology (IT) sent out an e-mail to all students Nov. 4, warning them that anyone participating in file-sharing would be subject to university sanctions.

Associate Provost for Information Technology Gary Pratt said in the e-mail that the university recently received a notification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which said that multiple campus computer users are illegally sharing music through peer-to-peer applications such as KaZaa and Gnutella.

On behalf of major record companies, the RIAA filed copyright infringement lawsuits against 750 illegal file sharers, including 25 students from 13 different university campuses, on Oct. 28.

“As a result of these notifications,” Pratt said in the e-mail, “the Office of Information Technology will be taking the necessary proactive steps to identify and eliminate possible infractions before these issues escalate.

“We are assuming a strict, ‘no tolerance’ stance concerning this issue.”

Pratt said that IT will forward the information it collects to the Dean of Students Office for possible disciplinary action. According to Pratt, network access will be temporarily removed from users engaging in music piracy until the matter has been resolved.

Dean of Students Kent Kelso said students who are caught violating IT’s policy can expect to face sanctions ranging from the loss of their access to the NKU network to suspension from the university.

“It all depends on the severity, nature and the amount of violation that we come across,” Kelso said.

According to Kelso, the university itself could be sued by the RIAA if it failed to prevent further illegal sharing of copyrighted music on its network.

“We’re allowing our network to be used for illegal purposes,” Kelso said. “That’s why we have to put a stop to it.

“IT is pursuing this aggressively, in full collaboration with the Dean of Students Office, University Housing and the university police because we want it very well known that we are complying completely with the law. We are not turning a blind eye to this type of activity.”

Students have mixed feelings about the university’s attempts to cut down on music piracy conducted over its network.

“I don’t like the new policy,” said Michelle Johnson. “I think it’s invading – I can’t say our privacy – but our rights to download music. At home they are not doing anything to keep me from downloading music, so I don’t know why they need to cut down on us downloading school. I think people will try to find a way around it.”

Sarah Carnes disagrees: “I don’t download music because it’s disrespectful, and the person who downloads music won’t get paid and that’s how they make their living.”

Carnes said that she believes IT will easily be able to catch violators.

Kelso said that’s just the case.

“IT seems to be very proficient at narrowing down and identifying who the people are who are violating the policy,” he said.

In fact, Kelso said that IT has already provided his office with a list of campus computer users believed to be illegally sharing copyrighted music. He said that his office is currently investigating these cases.

“The warning has gone out. If that has been ignored and their behavior continues…then you will see their sanctions are going to be appropriate for that and severe,” Kelso said.

“Those students who have taken the warning seriously and have ceased this activity – we may still find them because we have records of past activity, but we will be much more flexible and willing to work with them in a reasonable fashion when it comes to any final decision in sanctions.

“It’s in their best interest to stop immediately.”