Campuses Feeling the Squeeze

Glennis Nagel

Campuses across the nation are feeling the squeeze this spring as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) takes action on file sharing activities that make it possible to get music free.

“The bottom line is that college students like free stuff—free pens, free shirts, free music,” said Deb Schroeder, assistant vice chancellor of Information Technology. “Most students don’t know the ramifications.”

Acquiring music using a peer-to-peer (P2P) service to copy copyrighted works without paying can result in hefty fines and possibly formal legal proceedings,” Schroeder said. For some university students, punishment could include suspension from school.

The RIAA’s spring sweep resulted in 400 students at 13 universities becoming targets of legal action. Among the 400 are 36 on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus. For all 400, the RIAA is offering a new pre-settlement option. In a letter to the presidents of the 13 universities with infringement problems, Cary Sherman, president of RIAA, wrote: “…we are encouraging university administrators to help themselves and their students by sending a copy of our letter (notifying the university of our intention to file a lawsuit) to the actual infringer. The letter invites the infringer to contact us to arrange a settlement of our claims at a lower cost and before they turn into lawsuits of public record.

“We want to assure you that these legal actions are in no way focused on the University of Nebraska itself or on the operation of its network. Rather, this is an issue of individuals being responsible for their illegal actions, and defendants will include users on other university networks as well.”

Other universities with high numbers of students involved include: Ohio University, 50; North Carolina State University, Syracuse University and University of Massachusetts-Amherst, 37 each; University of Texas-Austin, 33; and University of South Florida, 31.

The University of Nebraska at Kearney is not among the list. However, over a two-month period last fall, 38 UNK students were identified as having downloaded free music. In September, RIAA was looking for country western artists whose music had been downloaded.When they find instances of downloading, the RIAA notifies the campus.

“We get a notice that says we found this song by this artist on a computer with a unique IP (Internet protocol). They can also sometimes tell me a username,” she said. “We trace it to a computer in a student’s room and disable that person’s account. When they try to log on, they get a screen that tells them they have to contact my office.”

“When it (downloading music) happens, I don’t ignore it.” Schroeder said. “I take it seriously.”