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Students pay more when not paying

Junior Lindsay Burton thought she was flying under the wire with her LimeWire account, but her secret didn’t stay hidden for long.

Burton was notified around the end of October that she was downloading illegal copyright materials through LimeWire, a type of peer-to-peer (P2P) software. Her LimeWire account was detected by CopySense, a new technology purchased by the University and initiated Oct. 10 to proactively deal with violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

“I had never gotten caught,” Burton said, “so I thought, ‘Well, I’ll keep my LimeWire until I get caught because the first offense is just a warning anyway.’ ” It wasn’t too long after that that I actually did get my warning.”

CopySense, a technology by Audible Magic Corp., is part of the University’s Digital Copyright Safeguards initiative, a multi-layered program meant to educate students about the DMCA.

When CopySense detects illegal use of P2P software programs such as LimeWire, BitTorrent and Gnutella, it directs computer users to a page explaining the offense and proceeds to block their Web access. On residence hall computers, first-time offenders lose access for 24 hours, second-time offenders lose Web access for two weeks and P2P access for 30 days and third-time offenders are blocked from the Web until they meet with the Division of Student Affairs, which is in charge of contacting ITS in order to lift the block. Offenses include Web blockage for 15 minutes, one hour and two hours for offenders using computers in administration buildings. (E-mail accounts, MyBGSU and other network services are still accessible.)

Matthew Haschak, director of IT security for the Information Technology Service, is pleased with the effects of the CopySense program.

“I think it’s been very effective,” Haschak said.

Haschak explained that since the beginning of spring semester, 102 people have reached level one, and six have reached level two.

He also said the number of copyright infringement complaints received by the University has decreased, as the school was receiving an average of about 39 complaints per week at the beginning of the semester but is now only receiving about seven complaints per week.

The complaints arrive in the form of letters (either cease and desist or pre-litigation settlement letters) from copyright holders such as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Last year, the University received 658 cease and desist letters from the RIAA, ranking the school 55th in the country and second in the state on a list of universities receiving letters from the organization. These numbers were part of the reasoning for purchasing the CopySense technology.

Rodney Fleming, managing attorney at the University, said Student Legal Services has only had one student bring in a pre-litigation statement from the RIAA, which occurred near the end of 2007. He said the letter threatened a lawsuit against the student, but the RIAA was willing to settle for $3,000, which the student paid.

Both Haschak and Fleming mentioned the RIAA has recently changed its strategy for catching copyright offenders. The RIAA announced in December it will start working with Internet service providers instead of suing individuals in order to stop illegal file sharing. The organization has already dropped charges against students at North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Rhode Island College.

Haschak said the RIAA’s new stance won’t affect the University’s efforts against illegal file sharing.

“That doesn’t change anything that we’re doing here,” he said. “We want to protect the students.”

After having her Internet restricted for a day because of LimeWire, Burton didn’t get mad, she became an iTunes purchaser.

“There still may be students out there who are kind of flying under the radar, but nonetheless, I think this program is catching a lot more students,” Burton said.

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