Piracy is common, but not monitored by U

However, students can still face harsh penalties from copyright holders.

by Nicholas Studenski

Many University of Minnesota students illegally download  music and movies, despite the risk of harsh penalties.

But students who use the University’s Internet to download pirated media could have their Internet blocked. If they use the copyrighted material for financial gain, they could pay a fine of up to $500,000 or spend up to five years in prison.

Chemical engineering freshman Sabrina Goetz-Padilla said she doesn’t pirate music but knows a lot of people who do. Illegal downloading doesn’t seem to be strictly monitored, she said.

“The people who monitor that have better things to do,” she said.

University law professor Tom Cotter, who specializes in copyright law, said national agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation aren’t typically looking for illegal downloads.

“Normally, it’s up to the copyright owner to enforce it,” he said.

Kinesiology junior Drew Markworth said he occasionally pirates music.

“I just don’t want to pay for it,” he said. “It’s not like I have a lot of money, so I might as well just get it where I can.”

Markworth uses YouTube-to-MP3 converters to download music, and he said he doesn’t think they’re illegal.

Cotter said the legality of these converters is unclear. If the music’s owner didn’t upload the material, then downloading it is always unlawful. But the law isn’t clear on the legality of downloading music that someone lawfully posted on YouTube.

Office of Information Technology Chief Information Officer Brian Dahlin said the University doesn’t monitor student Internet usage, but students can still be caught pirating.

Dahlin said OIT routinely receives notifications from organizations that believe University users are violating their copyrights.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act requires the University to accept notifications of copyright infringement. Under the DMCA, the copyright holder can sue an illegal downloader for damages.

The copyright owner tracks the misuse to the University through the IP address and sends a notification to OIT, Dahlin said, and OIT notifies the student via email. If the student doesn’t respond, the University could block his or her Internet access until they do. If the student was pirating, OIT could refer the case to the Office for Student Conduct and Academic Integrity, which decides on discipline.

Cotter said the copyright holders typically monitor for infringement themselves, but some larger groups will  contract an outside company to protect their copyrights.

Sophomore Mary Streiff said she doesn’t illegally download music but thinks it’s pretty common.

“I’m pretty sure like 98 percent of people do it,” she said.

Streiff said free music streaming sites like Pandora can reduce piracy and make money for the artist.

Cotter said piracy is still common, but it’s easier to legally download and listen to music now.

“There are more ways today than there were 10 years ago to download music lawfully, and I think that’s made some inroads in discouraging people from doing it unlawfully,” he said.