Illegal file-sharing complaints at MSU quadruple from last year
Complaints sent to MSU in regard to illegal file-sharing have increased fourfold from Sept. 1 to now compared to the same time period last year, according to officials.
In October, MSU officials passed 432 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA, complaints on to students, said David Gift, MSU’s vice provost for libraries, computing and technology. From Sept. 1 to now, the university has received 722 complaints compared to 178 during the same period last year, said Sandy Brasington, who handles DMCA complaints at MSU’s Academic Technology Services.
The complaints come from organizations representing musicians, movie studios and software companies.
Gift said an organization’s complaint could be anything from illegally shared music to movies to computer software and there are occasional “bursts” of complaints received, not that actual file-sharing behaviors increase or decrease each month.
“They have a strong campaign (where) they send lots and lots of complaints to lots of lots of places,” he said.
It has been the responsibility of universities to respond to copyright infringement notices and pass along said notices to suspected faculty or students since the enactment of the DMCA in 1998, Gift said.
Most complaints are forwarded on to students, he said.
“All (the organization) knows is the IP address and the timestamp,” Gift said. “We don’t name the individual — we pass the complaint on.”
Although MSU, acting as an Internet Service Provider, or ISP, does not conduct any snooping on its campus network, organizations including the Recording Industry Association of America, or the RIAA, monitor popular file-sharing networks, Gift said.
If an IP address is caught participating in illegal file-sharing activities, it can be traced back to MSU and a complaint is filed, he said. MSU officials give a person 48 hours to respond to an e-mail notice and require them to pay $25 in “administrative fees” to the university if at fault, he said.
A second or third complaint results in additional fines of $50 and $75, respectively, Brasington said.
“The great majority of our complaint volumes are just initial complaints,” she said. “We have relatively few second complaints.”
Some students said using legal means of downloading music, such as through Amazon.com, MP3.com and the iTunes Store, is the best course of action to avoid getting into trouble.
“People like free things, but they need to understand it’s someone else’s work that supports them and their families,” said human biology junior Sam Weinberg.
Regardless, students might still continue to participate in illegal file-sharing knowingly.
“We’re poor college kids,” said journalism freshman Olivia Kinney.
“People think it’s hard to get caught.”
On Oct. 26, a U.S. federal court ordered LimeWire, a popular file-sharing application, to stop distributing its software, Gift said. A trial will be held next month to determine damages, he said.
About 70 percent of notices received can be attributed to the RIAA, Brasington said. The Motion Picture Association of America and corporations such as NBC Universal also send complaints, she said.
Liz Kennedy, a spokeswoman at the RIAA, said the technology to detect illegal file-sharing activities has improved and the number of complaints to universities has increased.
“Our process (of sending complaints) to college campuses has not changed besides ceasing of sending lawsuits in 2008,” she said.
Kennedy said schools have numerous ways of dealing with the problem, most through education. MSU uses the same tactic, Gift said.
“We try to make the first complaint be an educational opportunity (and) not get the student in too much trouble,” he said.