Most file-sharers don’t fear penalties

A Daily poll found 65 percent of University students are unafraid of the consequences.

Kori Koch

Despite the music industry’s efforts to target and prosecute those who illegally share and download copyrighted material, it appears most University students are still not concerned with getting caught.

A Minnesota Daily poll completed in March found that 65 percent of students who illegally download music with file-sharing programs do not fear negative consequences.

The poll was designed to measure the prevalence of and attitude toward online file sharing among University students.

First-year University student Katie Peters compared online file sharing to speeding.

“People do both, because there’s no guarantee of ever getting caught,” she said.

That statistic is discouraging, said Shih-Pau Yen, University deputy chief information officer.

“The University is one big family,” he said. “Like a parent, I’m trying to protect students from getting caught by providing help.”

One effort to decrease illegal file sharing on campus began last fall when RealNetworks launched a pilot program called Rhapsody as an Internet jukebox service to all students.

Yen said he trusts students to do the right thing and is very bothered so many still choose to download illegally.

Sophomore Carl Perkins said consequences of getting caught aren’t immediate.

“When people do these things, the threat of punishment just isn’t there,” he said.

Approximately 65 percent of students agreed pay services, such as Rhapsody, iTunes and Napster, provide good alternatives, according to the poll.

Yen said approximately 1,000 University students currently subscribe to Rhapsody.

University senior Ross Hefferan said he is satisfied with his Rhapsody subscription.

“It’s a cheap way to listen to music from home,” he said.

Of the respondents, 55 percent said they pay little to nothing for online music services, while only 14 percent paid for most to all of the cost.

Yen said pay services will never eliminate free services.

The survey also found 70 percent of students thought the sharing of copyrighted material could eventually end.

Yet, Yen said he doubts that.

“We’ll never be able to fully plug that hole,” Yen said. “You can’t compete with free. Subscribing to anything involves some work.”

University first-year student Lindsay Hefferan said file sharing among college students will remain popular because it allows students to preview up-and-coming bands.

The Recording Industry Association of America and the movie industry have prosecuted thousands of suspected file-sharers in recent years.

The recording industry association sued two University students suspected of downloading copyrighted songs in April 2004.