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University regulates illegal downloads
With an infinite amount of websites available on the Internet, people all over the country may illegally download copyrighted materials. What many college students do not realize is that every private and public university in the United States has the ability to regulate illegal downloads and distributions on the campus’ network.
The university has a responsibility based on the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) to regulate the illegal distribution of copyrighted items, such as movies and music, according to Information Security Officer Brian Kelly. Passed in 2008, the HEOA requires Quinnipiac to annually inform students of the consequences they may face if they choose to supply other Internet users with illegal materials.
The Motion Picture Association of America and the Radio Industry Association of America are the two largest industries that monitor illegal downloads, according to Kelly. Although these companies’ softwares have the ability to determine any piracy-related activity, they only send copyright infringement notices on accounts of distribution of copyrighted materials.
“If you have material on your system and you’re putting it back out to the community, you’re going to get caught,” Kelly said. “If you want to protect yourself, don’t offer it back out.”
Students are protected to some degree by the university because of the large amount of users under Quinnipiac’s network, Kelly said.
“There’s a level of protection that the university provides to the students, but when you’re on an off-campus connection, you have a better chance of being caught,” Kelly said.
When the HEOA was passed five years ago, Kelly said many students nationwide were illegally downloading copyrighted materials.
“People were downloading millions of dollars worth of stuff, and the industries were trying to sue and make examples,” Kelly said. “They were trying to change the behavior, but that kind of went away because the perception was that the industry was just being a bully.”
Though Kelly is the person notified of any copyright infringements that take place under the university’s network, he said he does not monitor Internet traffic.
“My role is to respond to the RIAA and the MPAA, who are the two real industry leaders in trying to stop illegally sharing of copyrighted material,” Kelly said. “If you have software on your laptop that’s designed to share those files, those are the people that are going to find you, not Brian Kelly.”
Kelly, who referred to himself as the public representative to the Internet, said the industries that find illegal activity on the university’s network send him a subpoena and leave him in charge of finding the file distributor on campus.
“On the first offense, we tell them they need to clean it up, delete the software and delete the copyrighted material,” Kelly said. “On a subsequent offense, we would let Student Affairs know and have them handle it with disciplinary action.”
Sophomore Aneta Chorzepa said she thinks minor offenses should be handled strictly between the government and the sharer of illegal files, but the university should be aware of larger issues.
“If a student is caught having done this frequently with several types of materials then the university should know about it,” Chorzepa said. “The university teaches students about integrity and plagiarism, and this is not only something that’s important in school but also in the real world.”
Although sophomore Jhordane McNab said the school should be in charge of punishing students for illegally distributing copyrighted materials rather than the government, she does not like the idea of the university being involved in this matter at all.
“That’s sort of like a ‘Big Brother’ action on the school’s part, and it’s almost an invasion of privacy,” McNab said.
Chorzepa said she feels that if the university did not have a role in dealing with these issues, it would reflect poorly on the school.
“Just like drugs are illegal for good reason, so is illegal downloading and these laws should be enforced,” Chorzepa said. “A law is a law, and whether it’s downloading something like music or actual documents, someone worked hard to create that material and it is unfair to just take it from that person.”
The frenzy of illegally downloading copyrighted materials has died down, according to Kelly, and the university has not been issued a legitimate copyright infringement notice in more than a year.
“I like to think it’s because our students are well-behaved,” Kelly said. “But I can’t navigate your moral compass. If you want to steal stuff, you can steal stuff; but if you get caught, I’m not going to hide you.”