Education
2:05 pm
Mon December 6, 2010

MSU receives a spike in illegal file sharing complaints

Michigan State University students received more than 700 complaints of illegal downloading since September. That’s up from the nearly 200 complaints MSU received this time last year.

Here's how it works:

If a group like the recording industry or a movie studio thinks someone is downloading files illegally, they contact the Internet Service Provider (ISP) and issue what’s called a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) complaint.

In this case, Michigan State (the ISP) receives a complaint and passes it to the student in question along with a $25 fine for the first offense. The fines go up from there for repeat offenders.

David Gift is MSU’s vice provost. He says even though there’s been a big spike this fall in the number of DMCA complaints, that doesn’t mean there’s more illegal file sharing going on:

"There’s no reason to believe that file sharing behavior changes dramatically from month to month. What does change dramatically from month to month are the aggressiveness of copyright owners in filing DMCA complaints."

Gift says there’s no reason for the spike, just that the copyright holders are being more aggressive with their complaint filings.

How to prevent it:

Michigan State University sends notices about copyright violations and illegal downloading to all students at the beginning of the year. The university also put ads in the local student paper warning them about illegal downloads.

The State News reports some students at MSU say downloading music legally through the iTunes store, for example, is the best way to not get in trouble:

People like free things, but they need to understand it’s someone else’s work that supports them and their families,” said human biology junior Sam Weinberg

Regardless, students might still continue to participate in illegal file-sharing knowingly.

“We’re poor college kids,” said journalism freshman Olivia Kinney.

“People think it’s hard to get caught.”

The University of Michigan takes things a bit farther. Jack Bernard, assistant general counsel at U of M, says the university has a 3-year old computer program that alerts users who are about to share files:

"It just sends the person who’s doing that a notice saying: Hey, it looks like you’re uploading! And if you want to get educated about why we’ve been able to identify it, and how everyone else could identify this if they wanted to, you can contact us. It’s not a punitive program, there are no sanctions for it."

The program is called BAYU: Be Aware You're Uploading.

The University of Michigan, Western Michigan and Grand Valley State reported no noticeable up-tick in the number of illegal downloading complaints this fall.