College cracks down on use of computers for file-sharing

Ian Campbell ICampbell at uamail.albany.edu
Mon Mar 24 16:18:12 GMT 2003


UAlbany pursues Internet violators 

Albany-- College cracks down on use of computers for file-sharing, denying
students access to network 


By  <mailto:awechsler at timesunion.com> ALAN WECHSLER, Staff writer 
First published: Monday, March 24, 2003 


The University at Albany is fighting the illegal sharing of movies or music
on the Internet by hitting student perpetrators where it hurts -- the
college is taking them off-line. 


Since the spring semester began in late January, UAlbany has cut off more
than 180 students who were accused by record and movie companies of
file-sharing, said Martin Manjak, associate director of the residential
network. 


The students were all dorm residents who were using their personal
computers. To get their Web connection reinstated, students had to meet with
Manjak for a short lecture on copyright laws. Students also had to pay a $25
fee. 


A handful of students had their services suspended for 30 days because they
had done so much trading, he said. 


UAlbany appears to be the first college in the region to take a stronger
stance on file-sharing. Record companies and movie studios say they're
losing millions of dollars a year in sales because people are trading on the
Internet instead of buying CDs and videos. It's also been a problem for
colleges around the nation, as constant downloading takes up valuable space
on the school's bandwidth. 


Two years ago, UAlbany said file-sharing used up 60 percent of available
campus bandwidth. 


Schools have dealt with the clogging problem by buying machines that limit
the amount of bandwidth dedicated to file-sharing. But there's a new concern
to colleges -- under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which was
approved by the federal government last year, universities that provide
Internet access for students can be held liable if students use the campus
network to download movies and songs. 


The accusations of sharing came from movie studios or record companies, many
of which have hired outside agencies to trace the movement of copyrighted
media through the Internet. In late February, Universal Studios sent UAlbany
the Internet addresses of 60 students found to be sharing movies. 


"Most of them are cooperative," Manjak said of the students. "Most of them
understand why they're being cited." 


The Recording Industry Association of America said 2.6 billion files are
illegally downloaded each month by unauthorized computer users, many at
colleges. At the same time, sales of CDs declined 11 percent last year. 


Brian Sullivan, a UAlbany junior from Middletown who works at the school's
computer help desk, said the school was doing what it had to do. 


"It's not really the school's fault," said Sullivan, who has gotten numerous
phone calls from students who discovered they were shut off. "Nobody really
likes having to blacklist people." 


UAlbany's tactics surprised officials from other schools. 


"That's pretty drastic," said John Ellis, director of educational technology
at the College of Saint Rose. "We're not doing it here yet." 


The College of Saint Rose, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Skidmore and
Union colleges all give students a warning when told of illegal
file-sharing. At some colleges, a handful of students have been judicially
referred for continuing to download copyrighted materials. 


"I have the impression students have trouble believing that anything so easy
to do could be wrong," said Sharon Roy, director of academic and research
computing at RPI. "There is definitely some education that needs to take
place there." 

----------------
 
BTW, our hardware approach [packeteer] failed earlier this Spring, the
replacement device took a few days to order. It was on warranty and they
[vendor] could not find the paperwork so a replacement device was delayed
even further.  
 
The packeteer limited the Dorms bandwidth and effectively isolated and
limited the traffic before it hit the main back bone. When the flood gates
opened, well everyone understands what happens to people living downstream
on a flood plain.  It took the response time of the Admin Offices to zip.
With a web based acctg system, not a good thing and tends to get everyone's
attention. 
 
The hardware failure was the ideal event to bring the problem to the radar
screen. The recording issue was icing on the cake. Since the 'file sharing'
impacted us AND was illegal, change happened.  
 
If file sharing has the potential [risk] of bringing your web based
PeopleSoft Acctg Sys to its knees and is illegal per Digital Millennium
Copyright Act and costs extra $$ to provide the bandwidth, doesn't this
justify a tough stance?
 
Food for thought. 
I think we did the right thing.
 
 

Ian Campbell

SUNY @ Albany

Internal Audit, MSC 217

1400 Washington Ave.

Albany, NY

ICampbell at uamail.albany.edu


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