UR is changing its policies on disciplinary action regarding copyright infringement. In a three-to four-year period, 21 UR students have been subpoenaed for copyright infringement. The majority of these subpoenas were by the Recording Industry Association of America.

The RIAA has been investigating copyright infringement on college campuses across the United States due to the large amount of music file sharing among those who use such programs as BitTorrent and LimeWire.

The RIAA is able to detect illegal music trafficking. While they cannot know the name of the individual, they can find an IP address, and then contact the school and ask them to take disciplinary action. Prior to this year, the Office of the Dean of Students took informal action on the first notice by contacting students via e-mail. This first e-mail asked the student in question to cease all illegal music trafficking and downloading and to delete the illegally acquired songs and programs which enable illegal activity. If a student did not do so, a second e-mail of warning was sent, as well as a letter from the dean of students. The third notice was disconnection from ResNet and an e-mail informing the student of a reconnection fee of $150.

It is important to note that disciplinary action from UR does not exempt any students from lawsuits. Even if a student has ceased all illegal activity and/or paid the fee, the RIAA can still take legal action if it so chooses.

In the last three to four years, 54 students received pre-litigation notices. UR lawyers receive the pre-litigation letters and forward them to the students. At this stage, UR still does not give the RIAA the student’s name. If a student does not respond to the pre-litigation letter, the RIAA can send a subpoena letter. Once a student is subpoenaed, UR can no longer keep the student’s contact information private and is obligated by law to reveal the student’s name. Each property infringement, typically in the form of a single song, costs $750.

More than one student has been sued in six-digit figures. A majority of students have taken settlements, which usually amount to $3,000-$4,000. The costliness of the suits prompted the disciplinary changes.

To avoid these results, the Office of the Dean of Students has implemented a new policy. This year, the first notice is both an e-mail and a letter. The second notice contains the reconnection fee.

The policy change is also credited to another factor.

‘The Industry has ratcheted up their game,” Dean of Students Matthew Burns said. ‘Numbers are definitely rising for students that are being litigated against.”
On Sept. 5 alone, Burns received six notices of copyright infringement. Recently, he has been receiving anywhere from six to 12 a week.

The RIAA used to catch students in the actual process of trafficking music, but the development of new software has enabled the RIAA to identify the presence of transferable music by itself.

In other words, illegal music doesn’t need to go anywhere in order to be found on individual’s computers.

‘We don’t want to punish students,” Burns said. ‘We just want to get the news out there that this is happening.”

Schneier is a member of the class of 2011.

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