Gov. requires universities to crack down on illegal file-sharing


With the signing of the Higher Education Opportunity Act last month came a wave of new measures requiring colleges to crack down on illegal sharing of copyrighted materials among students.

Under the new provisions, universities will be required to develop plans aimed at deterring illegal file sharing, including stricter monitoring of bandwidth traffic.

Although a committee on behalf of the U.S. Congress is still determining specifics of the requirements, it would ultimately force the University to do more than hand students a pre-settlement notice, which is what it does now.

The new requirement comes at a time when file sharing among college students is spreading to more than just music and movies — the rising cost of textbooks, some say, is driving students to download those, as well.

The Hub, created by University alumnus David Hedges in 2003, allows students living in University residence halls with ResNet access to shared files — including music, movies and textbooks — on their computers at blistering speeds.

Hedges, who said he didn’t intend for the Hub to be used to share copyrighted materials, said he agrees that copyright infringement is wrong, but he isn’t a fan of the new file-sharing measures put in place by the HEOA.

“Having the government try and force universities and academic institutions into a position of playing Big Brother and watchdog for these media groups isn’t what these institutions of higher learning should be doing,” Hedges said.

The HEOA, a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act of 1965 , also requires colleges to offer a legal alternative to downloading copyrighted materials.

The University already offers a free program called Ruckus for students to legally download music.

Liz Mertz , a food sciences junior, said she uses Ruckus sometimes but doesn’t like the frequent pop-ups on the website.

Psychology first-year Aubrey Davis , however, said she’s never heard of Ruckus.

University Office of Information Technology Manager Ken Hanna said he doesn’t think eliminating peer-to-peer file sharing is a good idea because the technology can also be used legally.

“The technology for file sharing is neutral,” Hanna said. “It’s going to be increasingly used, so you can’t just ban technologies.”

The Recording Industry Association of America routinely sends out notices to colleges with instructions to pass them on to particular students they believe have unlawfully downloaded or shared music.

Unlike the University, which complies with the notices, Brian Rust, communications director at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said Madison has chosen not to send these notices to the students, because matching the individual student with the record provided by the RIAA is an inexact science.

“[The pre-settlement letter] is not even really a legal document,” Rust said.