U still getting notices against illegal file-sharing

Ryan Dionne

A year ago, Kara Johnson’s Internet stopped working in her residence hall room.

Little did Johnson, a retail merchandising junior, know that the University’s Office of Information Technology had closed her connection after receiving a notice she was sharing copyrighted content.

The Office of Information Technology receives dozens of notices per month like the one that caused Johnson’s Internet connection to be temporarily disconnected.

“Going a month without being able to do Internet in my room was a big pain,” Johnson said.

Instead of checking e-mail on her own computer, she had to use a friend’s or find an Internet kiosk inside Coffman Union.

Three to four weeks after talking to her residence hall director, Johnson’s Internet connection was restored, she said.

The number of notices the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America sends to the University has decreased from 8,000 two years ago to approximately 200 to 250 per year now, said Steve Cawley, the University’s chief information officer.

Each notice tells the University there is a person on its network suspected of sharing copyrighted content.

“Ninety-nine percent of the time, the notifications are for students, but there have been cases where it’s a staff computer,” Cawley said.

The first time a student is caught sharing files on the University’s network, his or her Internet is turned off for two weeks and Housing and Residential Life is notified, Cawley said.

If a student receives a second notice, his or her Internet is disconnected until Student Judicial Affairs decides to reconnect.

“Second offenses are very rare,” Cawley said.

Instead of temporarily disabling a student’s Internet connection, schools such as North Dakota State University use a quota system, said Rian Nostrum, the university’s associate director of operations for Residence Life.

Each student is allotted a certain amount of bandwidth per day.

Bandwidth helps determine the speed of an Internet connection, he said.

If a student at North Dakota State University exceeds the quota, his or her computer shares bandwidth with the rest of the violators from that day.

After one day, if the person stays below a lower quota, he or she is back to the normal amount of bandwidth allowed.

“It’s setting right around 11 or 12 percent, on a daily basis, that do hit their limit,” Nostrum said.

The system has helped prevent the average user from sharing files, but advanced users can find ways around it, Nostrum said.

The University of Minnesota also has bandwidth issues. Most of the bandwidth is reserved for educational purposes such as libraries and online courses, Cawley said.

When the recording industry association and the motion picture association first came to students’ attention by taking legal action against illegal file sharing, many students didn’t know they were sharing, Cawley said. They did, however, know they were downloading files.

The Office of Information Technology had to teach students how to turn off file sharing on their computers, he said.

Hopefully, companies will come out with more attractive ways for students to buy music, Cawley said, because companies like Rhapsody are not as inviting as they should be.