In an attempt to educate students about the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which requires prompt response to claims of copyright infringement by copyright holders or their agents, Vice Chancellor Manuel N. Gomez has sent one e-mail to try and help students understand the situation that the school is facing.
Gomez stated that accessing copyright materials without permission could result in a loss of Internet access for UCI students. Other consequences may include federal prosecution, since UCI must take its obligations under the DMCA seriously.
The latest movement by the Recording Industry Association of America has sparked renewed concerns by UCI’s Networking and Academic Computing Services over students’ understanding of what is and isn’t legal to download.
The RIAA has recently filed a series of lawsuits against 261 people for copyright violation.
With so many of the students on campus as regular users of peer-to-peer file sharing programs, UCI has to remind its students about the issue of copyright protection.
‘We are not required by law to educate students about the law, but as an educational institution we are attempting to educate people,’ said Stephan D. Franklin, UCI’s DMCA ‘Designated Agent’ of NACS. Franklin receives information of allegations of copyright infringement based on the use of UCI’s internet services.
According to Franklin, while the University of California has the highest priority set on protecting the privacy of its students, they must still respond to the demands of copyright holders.
‘If a copyright holder says to us ‘I have good reason to believe that this system on your network is violating our rights,’ then we have to act expeditiously to remove or disable access to the material,’ Franklin said.
If the violation is traced back to students living in UC student housing, Franklin contacts the student housing office to take further actions.
‘First we contact the individual, then we disconnect the person from the Internet, then we contact the person and let them know the allegation and ask them to remove the copyright material. After we verify the material is removed we activate the port again,’ said Kevin Ansel, the Director of Information Technology of student housing.
Ansel explained that if students do not cooperate, then further disciplinary action is taken.
‘For the second and third offense we notify the dean of students for them to take action,’ Ansel said.
Both Franklin and Ansel believe that the best way to prevent a violation of copyright laws is by educating students about using peer-to-peer software programs correctly.
‘In many cases, people are unaware that their system is [sharing files], which is why the first thing I talked about is the education. There is lots and lots of legitimate file sharing, but it turns out that for a lot of these [file sharing] programs, you have to be a wizard so you don’t share stuff you don’t want to,’ Franklin said.
The NACS web site, as well as the residential housing web site, both explain the procedures involved in sharing files correctly so student downloads are not sharing illegally with those outside of UCI.
The growing concern of students downloading copyrighted material comes from the recent actions of the recording industry.
The RIAA is suing for up to $250,000 per song stored on the computer, although most cases that have been resolved so far have settled between $2,000 and $3,000.
The list of defendants include a 12-year-old girl who is an honor student and an elderly grandfather who claims that his grandchildren used his computer to download songs.
These defendants were accused by the RIAA of illegally downloading and distributing songs over the Internet via peer-to-peer file sharing programs such as Kazaa.
There are millions of users using peer-to-peer file sharing programs to download illegal songs, and the RIAA is using the 261 lawsuits to send a warning to those who are using these programs to hopefully stop the illegal sharing of music.
‘I think it’s unfair because they’re just thinking of the larger corporation interests instead of the small record labels since the smaller labels rely on the peer-to-peer programs to distribute their music to the public,’ said Van Do, a fourth-year ICS major.
The RIAA is blaming the users of these programs for the 30-percent decline in music sales that has been occurring over the past few years.
‘Nobody likes playing the heavy and having to resort to litigation, but when your product is being regularly stolen, there comes a time when you have to take appropriate action,’ said Carey Sherman, president of the RIAA.
Sherman warns that the RIAA may file thousands more lawsuits against people who use peer-to-peer file sharing programs such as Kazaa, the most popular file sharing program, Grokster, Gnutella, Blubster and iMesh.
By targeting individuals rather than business entities like UCI, the businesses are not responsible for the actions of the individuals.