The debate over the legality of file-sharing at universities nationwide has recently taken the form of a letter sent to a number of higher education officials. Executives of the Motion Picture Association of America and the Songwriters Guild of America are urging students to discontinue downloading movies and music and pressuring schools to support their position.

“We’re simply trying to appeal to the universities for their help in making students aware of Internet theft,” said Jack Valenti, president and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America in a written statement.

Executives involved in the entertainment industry remain concerned about students’ file-sharing activity, because university electronic resources often offer high-speed Internet connections – allowing movies and songs to be downloaded quickly, the statement said.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the letter’s authors estimated that students use three quarters of available university bandwidth intended for academic files for file sharing.

During freshmen orientation, University staff warned students about abusing the University’s electronic resources and mentioned possible repercussions, including criminal charges, according to the Guidelines for Implementing the Proper Use Policy of the University of Michigan on the ITD website.

James Hilton, associate provost for academic, information and technology affairs, said the University believes people should honor copyright laws and behave ethnically and legally.

Hilton maintains that the University honors the Digital Copyright Act and will ask an individual to take down a file believed to be operating in violation of the act.

“But downloading is a hard thing to regulate,” LSA senior Nate Kuzma said. “It’s a violation of our rights, because we should be able to use the bandwidth for anything. I choose to watch movies here rather than at the theater because movie tickets are expensive.”

LSA sophomore Jacqueline Milton agreed that downloading music and movies is an inexpensive alternative to buying albums and going to movie theaters.

“I think the musicians make enough money as it is, and they are not exactly dying of hunger,” she said. “Besides, it’s good music and I like to support the groups what I like.”

Michigan Union Computer Showcase manager Phil Harding said he considers file-sharing tantamount to stealing. “If you write a term paper for three weeks and someone uses it online, is it stealing?” he said.

“It may be small stealing and people may rationalize it by saying that they are poor students, but its still stealing.”

“I think the University should mention piracy, but students shouldn’t be browbeaten about it,” he added. “Students are adults when they come here; they can make their own decisions.”

– The Associated Press

contributed to this report.

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