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September 16, 2004

Campuses Grapple with Music Piracy Problems

New strategies are emerging on college campuses due to recent developments in the ongoing legal tug-of-war between copyright holders on various media available over the Internet and computer users who pirate these media.

Last month, Penn State signed a deal with the recording industry under which professors can link copyrighted works to their course web sites legally; students can download the music also within the law. Penn State pays a fee to Napster, which acts as the conduit in the agreement and pays royalties to copyright holders.

Pitt has taken a different tack, according to Pitt’s Jinx Walton, director of Computing Services and Systems Development (CSSD). “Last year, steps were also taken to address the matter on a broader scale,” including an education, consultation and support program, Walton said. “Residential consultants provided support throughout the residence halls and educated their fellow students about the proper use of copyrighted materials. This was combined with a targeted awareness program using posters, flyers and pamphlets to identify the risks of illegal file-sharing.”

Pitt’s legal counsel office continues to receive copyright infringement notices regarding resident hall students, which Pitt addresses individually. Penalties range from suspension of a student’s computer account for first offenses to expulsion for chronic offenders.

But the educational efforts continue and already “have resulted in a significant reduction in the total number of copyright infringements in the residence halls,” she added.

Some schools have entered into agreements with fee-based file-sharing services such as Napster, Ruckus and iTunes, a possibility CSSD has explored. “The services are all fairly new and have not been widely implemented,” Walton pointed out. “Funding models for these programs vary and include full funding by the university, funding through the technology or activities fee and an opt-in service where each student personally pays for the service.” With the exception of iTunes, the other programs had significantly high costs, she said, leading Pitt to enter into an agreement with Apple to implement the “iTunes on Campus” program.

“Through this program the University can distribute the iTunes client software, which provides students with free access to streaming music, music videos and movie trailers,” Walton said. “If a student wishes to download the music and create an audio CD, then a [student] fee is incurred. The iTunes client software will be available to students for the fall term through our electronic software distribution site.”

There is no subscription fee for the iTunes service, she said. “CSSD is covering the costs associated with the implementation of the program. Our plans for the upcoming term are to monitor use of the iTunes program and assess student interest in similar type services.”

-Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 37 Issue 2

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