Think Before You Download

The blazing fast Internet speed on college campuses typically trumps any at-home coverage. This allows for students to study faster and smarter, but it may also encourage a less practical usage: illegally sharing pirated music. Though it is undeniable that thousands of people illegally share files throughout the nation, the difference is that on campus, many students are now getting caught.

Ever since the Internet took off in popularity and accessibility, and programs such as LimeWire and Bit Torrent gained legions of users, illegal downloading has been a perpetual thorn in the Recording Industry Association of America’s (RIAA) side. Downloading anything for free that would typically require payment is illegal, and this includes downloading pirated music, movies, and software. The RIAA works against music piracy in particular and has recently begun cracking down on student downloading. To track down illegal file sharers, the RIAA uses a program called MediaSentry, which scours the Internet for the names of illegally-shared copyrighted songs. MediaSentry also takes down the IP addresses of the file sharers and relays that information back to the RIAA. IP addresses are unique and can be used to trace the location of the exact computers used to carry out the illegal file sharing, which also essentially leads to the illegal file sharer. The RIAA then uses this information gathered by MediaSentry to send notices out to the file sharers, many of whom are university students.

Just last year, Joel Tenenbaum, a Boston University graduate student, was sued by the RIAA for illegally sharing copyrighted music online. He admitted to downloading at least 30 songs, and was fined a whopping $675,000, though that fine has since been reduced to $67,500, according to U.S. News. The case rocked campuses across the nation as students began to realize that their activities on the World Wide Web could indeed be tracked, and that the chances of being punished was increasing as the RIAA carried out its campaign to take aggressive action against student downloaders. The organization has already sent out hundreds of subpoenas to universities, asking the schools to give up the identities of numerous student file sharers. If students are not careful or cease their downloading activities altogether, they may face lawsuits seeking as much as $150,000 per downloaded song. Students should think about that the next time they’re considering illegally downloading a new musical album instead of obtaining the music in a legal manner.

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