Illegal campus file-sharing less prevalent

by Beacon Staff • December 6, 2006

According to Rich Grossman, director of networking and telecommunications at Emerson, Apple Computer, Inc. has begun taking measures to stop ourTunes, the software program that allows iTunes users to copy music over a shared music network, from operating on campus.,The illegal file-sharer's best friend, ourTunes, may not be safe for use on college campus networks much longer.

According to Rich Grossman, director of networking and telecommunications at Emerson, Apple Computer, Inc. has begun taking measures to stop ourTunes, the software program that allows iTunes users to copy music over a shared music network, from operating on campus.

"As Apple releases new versions of iTunes, they make-intentionally or not-changes which break the ability of ourTunes to see other iTunes libraries," Grossman said.

OurTunes, which according to its Web site has been downloaded 350,000 timessince 2004, is a program that uses the file-sharing ability of Apple's iTunes music player to allow listeners to view music files from other computers on the network. Once connected, users can illegally transfer music files onto their own machines.

Chrisanne Grise, a freshman print journalism major, said she downloaded ourTunes to use with the latest version of iTunes in October.

"It didn't work at first, but now sometimes it does," Grise said. "If it's not working, no songs are listed to download and it says the connection failed."

The company had no official comment on the matter. A technical support representative for Apple said that the company does not support the use of ourTunes but has not taken any action towards disabling the program.

Illegal file-sharing is especially prominent on the residential network in the Emerson dorms, according to Grossman.

Programs like ourTunes allow peer-to-peer connections for any computer running on campus.

Organizations like the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) often link to these peer-to-peer networks to send cease-and-desist orders in place of media files.

According to Grossman, there were more than 100 such orders issued last year, but less than 20 have been sent since the semester began.

"Either they're not looking as hard or there's not as much sharing," Grossman said.

Grossman said students caught file sharing are asked to sign contracts agreeing to stop any illegal activity and erase illegally obtained digital files from their computers.

He said the issue will often end there, but there was one instance in which the RIAA was not satisfied with that action.

Christine Hughes, Emerson's legal counsel, said the RIAA served the college with a subpoena in 2005 that contained the nine-digit IP address used in the illegal download in question, and asked the college for the name of the student to whom that IP address was assigned, in order to sue him or her.

Emerson considers a student's IP address an educational record, which is protected by federal law. However, the law permits the college to release protected student information pursuant to a subpoena, after giving the student reasonable notice, Hughes said.

"Emerson followed its standard protocol," Hughes wrote in an e-mail to The Beacon. "We told the student about the subpoena, gave the student 10 days, and then released the information."

Hughes said a student convicted of illegal file-sharing could be forced to pay up to $30,000 for each downloaded song or film and up to $150,000 for each willful infringement, if it is found that the student knew copyright laws were being broken at the time.

Hughes said the RIAA sued students at 18 colleges and universities in Massachusetts in early 2005, including one Emersonian.

Grossman said despite RIAA and MPAA crackdowns, the IT department has no plans to disable ourTunes or discipline its users.

"There are thousands of network ports on campus," Grossman said. "I am not actively looking for people using ourTunes."

Jenny Doyle, a junior marketing communication major and one of the many musicians at Emerson, said she wasn't worried by the file sharing on college campuses. Doyle has a MySpace page for her music and said she hoped people were downloading her music.

"For me, since I'm not famous, I see no problem with it," Doyle said. "It's an important way for independent bands to get out there."

Hughes, however, stressed the legal and moral implications of illegal file-sharing on campuses.

"I do believe that Emerson students, who are here to learn how to create work that they may one day wish to copyright," Hughes said, "should be particularly scrupulous in honoring the copyrights of other artists."