The recent publicity surrounding the illegality of file sharing
has caused many students to put the brakes on downloading.

“I have downloaded music in the past, though in general, I don’t
anymore because more files are protected or are in bad quality,”
LSA sophomore Paul Teske said.

Instead, Teske said he has opted to use the legal file sharing
alternatives.

“Rather than buy CDs, I’ve tried to buy singles online like at
buymusic.com. As long as prices come down, I’ll probably use it
more or I’ll probably end up burning CDs from friends,” he
said.

In an effort to cut down on the illegal distribution of music by
the estimated 60 million people sharing files online, the Recording
Industry Association of America filed 261 federal lawsuits against
file sharers on Monday.

Among those being sued are a 71-year-old man from Texas whose
grandchildren downloaded songs on his computer, a 12-year-old from
New York who downloaded using the Kazaa peer-to-peer network that
her mother bought for $29.95 and a Yale professor who downloaded
nearly 500 songs before being notified of his illegal activity,
according to the Associated Press.

All individuals being sued received “educational instant
messages” containing a legal message about file sharing.

“This first round of lawsuits involves the most egregious
cases,” RIAA spokeswoman Amanda Collins said. “We do expect to
bring more lawsuits in the next few weeks.”

The RIAA has served 1,600 subpoenas to Internet Service
Providers in order to obtain names of file sharers who may be the
subject of future lawsuits.

Though it is estimated that teenagers make up 50 percent of all
file sharers, Collins said the problem with file sharing “spans all
ages, young to old.” With cases involving minors, the lawsuits are
served to account holders – often the minors’ parents.

“There is no free pass. There will be no more warnings,” she
added. “We’ve been educating the public for a number of years.
There are dozens of legal ways to get songs online. There is no
excuse.”

Collins would not comment on whether any students at the
University or at other campuses were targeted.

“The University is not among those involved in the original set
of lawsuits,” University spokeswoman Julie Peterson said. “We are
not aware of any lawsuits involving University of Michigan people,”
she added.

Still, the University has taken measures to limit file sharing
on its network.

“The University pays for Internet connections, so the more the
Internet is used, the more expensive it becomes for the
University,” said Elizabeth Loesch, director of information
technology for University Housing.

As a result, beginning at the end of last year, “We have limited
the amount of bandwidth allowed for file-sharing,” Loesch said.

The University does not have any statistics regarding file
sharing on its network because it does not “monitor students’
Internet usage,” Loesch said. Still, the University does monitor
bandwidth usage, though the new limit has not been released because
the University has not completed the conversion.

Comcast Corp., the country’s largest high-speed Internet
provider, “doesn’t monitor peer-to-peer bandwidth individually but
only looks at an aggregate,” Comcast spokeswoman Sarah Eder
said.

“Peer-to-peer networks do not violate any existing laws,” she
added.

LSA senior Beth Clarke said she doesn’t use Kazaa much anymore
because of the recent crackdown on file sharing.

“Occasionally, I download music,” Clarke said. “I’d rather hear
stuff and see if I like it before I buy a CD or burn it from a
friend.”

“(File sharing) is a good way to get songs out there. That’s how
a lot of people get popular. I first heard about John Mayer and
Jack Johnson from music on the Internet and now they are
mainstream.”

“It seems bands who are making a big deal about file sharing
have more money than they know what to do with,” Clarke said.

LSA junior Eli Zoulas said he doesn’t plan on downloading fewer
songs now than he has in the past.

“One of my friend’s friends got sued, but the chance of me
getting sued are little because I don’t download mainstream pop
music. I don’t think Paul Van Dyk or D.J. Tiesto will care if I
download their music. I am not afraid of being sued because I am
not downloading big corporations’ music,” he said.

“I still go and buy CDs and own CDs of music I downloaded,”
Zoulas said.

Even though many students are sharing copyrighted music, most
agree that what they’re doing is illegal – but that’s not the
point, they add.

“I just think that there may be better things to focus on now,”
LSA junior Stacy Dodd said.

“I agree sharing files is illegal but everybody does illegal
stuff, especially on the Internet,” Zoulas said. “I mean, look at
jaywalking or illegal drinking.”

RC sophomore Randy Steinhaus buys most of his music, gets it
from friends, or downloads music on friends’ computers, but said he
doesn’t believe file sharing should be illegal.

“I think it’s illegal to download movies that aren’t released or
are still in theaters, and with music, I think it’s illegal if the
music is not released. Otherwise, it’s not stealing, in my
opinion.”

“The way I look at it is that if I were a rich musician, I
wouldn’t care if some poor college student was getting my music for
free,” Steinhaus said.

Though there are legal ways of obtaining music online, the ease
and zero cost of downloading music through peer-to-peer networks
prompts people to continue illegally sharing files.

“People don’t have time or money to buy songs or to get them any
other way,” Clarke said. “It’s just too easy to download them.”

In present and future lawsuits, courts will decide the damages,
though U.S. copyrights allow for penalties of up to $150,000 per
song illegally shared.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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