Thursday, September 19

Cracking down on file-sharing


The increasing connectivity capabilities of the Internet have
created a breeding ground for illegal file-sharing and potential
copyright infringement.

This is especially the case in college dorms that utilize the
fastest local area network connections.

“With the Internet, there are just so many information and
transfer possibilities,” said first-year computer science
student Angie Yen. “There’s nothing stopping people
from doing it.”

In response to the growing number of online copyright
infringements, the UCLA residence halls have reformed their
approach to alleged file-sharing violations.

Previously, all potential copyright infringement cases were
monitored by an individual from UCLA information technology. The
new system is now partially automated.

When UCLA receives a complaint from an outside party, such as
the Universal Music Group or the Motion Picture Association of
America, an e-mail is automatically sent to the violating computer.
Internet access to non-UCLA Web sites is then cut off faster than
with the manual response.

“For an institute of higher education to overlook
copyright infringement would not be a proper standpoint and would
not be appropriate,” said Christine Coons, the Office of
Residential Life judicial affairs coordinator and Assistant Dean of
Students.

“The restricted access policy was a response to try to
remain within the law and to preserve students’ academic
ability online,” Coon added.

From July 2003 to March 2004, there were 300 alleged violations,
said Jim Davis, the associate vice chancellor of information
technology. Six of these violators were repeat offenders.

Most of the violations were for movies, music or software, and
involved the perpetrator sharing a copyrighted file without the
copyright owner’s permission.

UCLA’s new response to infringement complaints comes on
the heels of a March 23 infringement lawsuit in which the Recording
Industry Association of America sued 532 individuals, 89 of whom
were from universities — including the University of California
Berkeley and California State University Northridge. Settlements
ranged from $12,000 to $17,000.

If a violator at UCLA removes the infringing material within one
business day of notification, the only punishment is a day’s
loss of unregulated Internet access. During this time, the
individual still has access to UCLA Web sites such as MyUCLA.

The key aspect of the response is to quarantine the machine to
stop the infringement, Davis said.

Students who receive more than one violation face more severe
consequences.

Serial violators could potentially be dismissed from the
university, but Coon said most usually receive disciplinary
probation or suspended suspension. She stressed that each violation
is treated on a case by case basis.

The new response also involves a strong educational
component.

“We’re really hoping that it is an awareness program
as much as anything,” Davis said. “From talking to
students, it seems a number are unaware that they can be
caught,” he added.

Despite notices on UCLAtv, fliers and various memorandums from
UCLA IT, some dorm residents feel the implications and terms of the
policy still remain ambiguous.

“We don’t know what the new policies are,”
said Yen.

“Everyone knows (file-sharing) is not something legal to
do … but no one really knows what the consequences
are.”

Yen was surprised to receive an e-mail infringement notification
for downloading a single episode of a television show. The
complaint had been from MPAA, which has recently joined the music
industry’s long battle against illegal file-sharing.

“I felt so confident that I knew what was going on, and I
was keeping up with everything,” she said.

“MPAA hasn’t said anything about cracking down.
Everyone thinks it’s still just music.”

With reports from Jeyling Chou, Bruin science senior
staff.

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