JENNIFER JOHNSON, Contributor
In recent months, Beloit College has seen an increase in the number of students receiving notices about their illegal downloading activity. Warning letters have been appearing in campus mailboxes en masse, leaving many students shocked at their appearance. However, illegal downloading is far from uncommon. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) reported in 2009 that over 95 percent of music downloads were illegal.
In the age of information, we are accustomed to having every kind of online content at their fingertips—movies, music, television shows, videogames, etc. Instead of using legal means, we can press the single, conspicuous download button that allows us to have every note at our disposal, for all time, for free.
Aside from a few whispers about fines and a handful of court cases that quickly slipped out of the public consciousness, the consequences for torrenting seem nonexistent. It seems strange, then, that campus mail has recently experienced a flurry of “cease and desist” letters to students.
A college is a an unsafe place for students to be stealing media off of the Internet. College networks are an obvious place for agencies like the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to look for copyright violations, and this is in no way a new phenomenon.
“We have been receiving notices of potentially illegal activity for several years,” Information Services and Resource’s (ISR) Chief Information Officer, Megan Fitch said. “The earliest records I have are from 2005. We have seen an increase in the number of notices the past two years. We have also seen a large increase in multiple notices for the same student and file.”
“I didn’t think I was going to get caught,” a first-year who wishes to remain anonymous said. “I was careful about the way I torrented.”
Despite precautions that students believe they have taken, Internet downloading activity is still scarily transparent.
“Activity on the Internet is far from anonymous,” Fitch cautioned. “Web surfing and downloading, and uploading can be tracked and scanned by IP address. Agents employ technology that scans torrent networks and activity for files; the notices we receive give the name of the file, time and date that the file was detected as available for downloading, and IP address used to make the file available.”
Once ISR has received a notice of illegal activity from an entertainment firm, they will pass the notice on to the student. While these notifications are scarcely more than a slap on the wrist, some students have heeded them, concerned about further consequences.
“Getting caught at school did make me torrent less,” revealed the anonymous student. Evidently, these notices can curb illegal downloading activity, but have not eliminated it altogether.
The only way to avoid getting a warning from the entertainment industry is to download legally. However, this generation is so used to the idea of free media that it remains to be seen whether a series of warnings will actually change the way students download media.
Source: IFPI’s Digital Music Report 2009