Heres a frightening thought: Right this minute, your student may be at a computer terminal committing a crime and jeopardizing other Iowa students ability to do University projects. The penalties can range from civil and criminal penalties to University discipline and loss of his or her ability to use the ResNet computer network.
If your student is using network file-sharing programs, such as KaZaA, Morpheus, BearShare, Aimster, AudioGalaxy, and others, to download copyrighted music or films from the Internet and share them with others through web sites, thats copyright violation. Violations can lead to investigations by owners of the copyright and either civil or criminal penalties. SONY Entertainment has been investigating several copyright violations at The University of Iowa in recent months, says Steve Fleagle, director of telecommunications and network services for the University.
And because the files take a long time to download, the residence halls computer network, ResNet, is compromised.
Bandwidth used by network file-sharing programs has resulted in extreme network congestion in the residence halls, Fleagle says. This congestion makes it difficult for other students to do valid academic work on ResNet or the University network.
This is really a serious situation, says Mary Ellen Sinnwell, manager of Residence Life. Students are exercising their freedom in being away from parental supervision. Their intent may not be to violate laws and policies, but thats what they're doing. The New York Times reported arrests at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California at Los Angeles, Duke University, and Purdue University for exactly the same infractions that we are investigating here.
Since sites, individual music productions, and films usually are marked as copyrighted material, students cannot contend they didn't know they were in violation, she says.
Students always are shocked to find out that their computers can be monitored.
We do have to check when there is a complaint from an outside business, she says. The University doesnt monitor students activity routinely.
Since the downloads are creating congestion on ResNet, students ask if it wouldnt be better for the University just to create more capacity and end the bandwidth problem that way, Sinnwell says. But it would cost nearly a million dollars to do so.
Be Part of the Solution
Responsible students can help to solve some parts of the problem, Fleagle says.
Many campuses have been forced to ban the popular file-sharing programs for legal, financial, or network performance reasons, he says. Our goal is not to ban programs like these, but instead to promote responsible use so that further action is not needed.
The root of the problem is the traffic generated by people outside the University downloading files from computers connected to ResNet, he says. If everyone uses ResNet responsibly by limiting or eliminating files being shared to others outside the University, there will be enough capacity for everyone.
Fleagle suggests parents ask their students to:
Learn more about the issues with file sharing
That way they can make the best decision about responsible use of their connection to ResNet (see the links below).
Be aware of copyright issues.
Many music (mp3) and movie (.avi) files are protected by copyright. The University does not monitor network traffic to see if copyright violations are occurring, but private companies, such as movie studios, do.
These copyright holders seem to be watching more closely and getting more aggressive in their response, Fleagle says. In the first couple of months this school year, the University already has received about 10 times the number of formal complaints that we received all of last year.
When a complaint is received, the University investigates it. Those who create a significant problem for others are asked to change their behavior. If they fail to do so, they may lose their ResNet privileges or face other action by the University, and possibly by law enforcement agencies, Fleagle says.
Selected Web Information Sites
Acceptable Use Policy
Acceptable Use Policy for Information Technology Resources: www.uiowa.edu/~our/opmanual/ii/19.htm
Best Practices (how to use file-sharing programs responsibly): www.uiowa.edu/~security/docs/bp-faq-mp3-2001.html