UR has been named one of the top institutions for movie piracy in the nation. According to the Democrat and Chronicle, UR, along with Rochester Institute of Technology, appears on a list of 25 colleges and universities that have received the most reports from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) regarding students allegedly committing film and TV piracy.
This year marked the first time the MPAA put out such a list. The list, compiled from October through November 2006, only counts acts of piracy committed over campus computer networks.
According to the list, UR was contacted 562 times by the MPAA about illegal movie downloading. The Recording Industry Association of America released a similar list concerning music piracy in February, but UR was not included.
UR students have a variety of file-sharing and downloading options to choose from. Besides larger peer-to-peer networks like Bittorrent, there are more local file-sharing networks, such as DC++ and its counterpart, Shakespeer. These networks, which are run illegally by students, allow UR students to post and download music and movie files quickly and easily.
Security Officer and Director of Security and Policy Kim Milford called UR students “technology savvy” and pointed out that they generally arrive at UR with knowledge of these peer-to-peer programs.
“When they get to the University, they’ve got a lot of bandwidth and often take advantage of it for file-sharing,” Milford said. “This is true for most universities and colleges.”
According to ResNet/ResTV engineer Chuck Sy, the only direct preventative measure to curb piracy was undertaken four years ago, when UR reduced the amount of bandwidth available to students. This way, he explained, students’ efforts to share files are slowed down.
However, UR has made an effort to educate students about copyright laws and provide alternatives to illegal downloading.
“We try to provide information and legal ways to access popular media,” Milford said.
Earlier this year the school sent out a brochure reminding students what is prohibited under copyright law. Also, in 2004, UR became the first private college to offer a free digital music service to its students. Napster, which is available to all students, allows students to listen to, but not download, an enormous catalogue of streaming music files. However, only students with Windows operating systems are able to use the program.
“We’re currently evaluating Napster to see if it’s still the best fit to meet student needs and our environment,” Milford said, mentioning that availability for Macintosh computers is one of the considerations being researched. The University has also begun to offer alternative digital services as well, such as Cdigix.
Students who receive more than one copyright infringement notice meet with Dean of Students Jody Asbury, who explains the importance of the copyright law. Also, repeat offenders must often perform community service.
Faculty and administrators stress the need for students to regulate themselves and respect copyright law.
“[Illegal downloading] is basically on the students, their honesty and academic integrity,” Sy said. Milford echoed his sentiment.
“As a research institution, UR holds quite a bit of intellectual property,” Milford said. “We place a high value on protecting copyrights, trademarks and patents. We want to help students understand and respect intellectual property law – someday it may be your creative works that are being illegally shared.”
Wrobel is a member of the class of 2010.