New Piracy Law May Cost Dartmouth

This story was written by John A. Alzate, The Dartmouth
A nationwide campaign for state laws that would require colleges to track students illegal file sharing could cost the College millions of dollars if the laws are passed, Ellen Young, manager of consulting services at Dartmouth Computer Services, said in an e-mail message to The Dartmouth. The College does not currently have an opinion on the possible anti-piracy legislation, and no such bill has been introduced in the New Hampshire legislature, she added.

The law would require Dartmouth to police its wireless network more stringently, notably by installing detection software and reporting all students who engage in illegal file sharing. Current law requires the College to notify students only if they have been caught sharing files illegally.

The entertainment industry maintains that college students are responsible for most illegal file sharing, but college officials across the nation disagree, claiming that industry data is unreliable and piracy occurs everywhere on the internet, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The College receives infringement notices including warnings to students to delete copyrighted material and subpoenas indicating that the students may face illegal action daily from copyright holders, including the Recording Industry Association of America, HBO, Paramount Pictures, Universal Studios and Lionsgate, Young said. The media companies are able to fine students, but generally students receive warnings, she added.

Despite these warnings, the number of students caught file sharing illegally has increased this year, Young said.

One analogy that helps people to understand this whole arena of [peer-to-peer] copyright violations is speeding, Young said. Lots of people tell me that everyone does it as an excuse for them doing it too. But, like speeding, its still illegal. If you get caught, sometimes you get off with a warning, and sometimes you have to pay the penalty.

Illegal file sharing adversely affects the Colleges internet network speed as well, Young said.

In addition to using [peer-to-peer] software for breaking the law in violating copyright holders rights, it also can limit the amount of bandwidth available for academic research, Young said. Dartmouth spends a lot of time and money in tracking down copyright infringers because, if we failed to do so, Dartmouth would then assume the liability in these cases rather than the person who owns the computer where the copyright infringement took place.

Officials from colleges across the country addressed the provisions of the suggested legislation at a technology policy conference held in Arlington, Va., last week, according to The Chronicle.

The conference, sponsored by Educause, a non-profit higher-education technology organization, addressed lawmakers in Tennessee and Illinois who considered such legislation and lawmakers in California contemplating a similar anti-piracy bill.

The anti-piracy bill is part of recent efforts by the entertainment industry to crack down on illegal file sharing at colleges nationwide.

Educause told attendees that such laws would be burdensome and could cost colleges several million dollars. Speakers claimed the new bill would be ineffective in reducing the amount of illegal file sharing on campuses.