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Subject: [hangout] Lock 'em Up
Date: Thu, 20 Mar 2003 09:47:03 -0500
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Marking File Traders as Felons
By Katie Dean
Story location: http://www.wired.com/news/business/0,1367,58081,00.html
02:00 AM Mar. 19, 2003 PT
College students, listen up: Don't mess with Texas.
Texas Rep. John Carter, that is.
During a recent hearing of the Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and
Intellectual Property, the Republican congressman said jailing college
students who download copyrighted music would help stop piracy.
"What these kids don't realize is that every time they pull up music and
movies and make a copy, they are committing a felony under the United
States code," Carter said in an interview. "If you were to prosecute
someone and give them three years, I think this would act as a
But some university officials say they have stepped up efforts to stop
piracy on their networks, and packing kids off to prison won't solve
"I can't see turning millions of college students into criminals," said
Graham Spanier, president of Pennsylvania State University. "We'd have
to build a lot of new prisons to hold the lawbreakers engaged in piracy
of copyrighted materials."
Carter said making an example of a few college students could go a long
way toward bringing home the message that sharing and duplicating
copyrighted materials is wrong.
"Sometimes it takes the shock value of someone actually being punished,"
Carter said. "In this particular instance it might also send a message
to these kids that are operating on these networks that, 'Hey, I better
Students would learn quickly that copying even one album is not worth
the potential punishment, he said.
"That information sent out to kids would be a real eye opener," he said.
"I think you would have a 50 percent falloff, at least, of these people
(who are pirating files).
"I'm not out to get the kids, I'm out to get their attention."
Carter, now in his first term in the House, served as a state district
judge for 20 years in Williamson County, known as the Lone Star State's
toughest county for criminals. If rampant file sharing was going on
back home, he said, people would likely be prosecuted.
"A felony conviction is a terrible thing to have on your record," Carter
said. Among other things, he said, a person would not be able to become
an officer in the U.S. military if convicted of a felony.
A statement from the Recording Industry Association of America seems to
back Carter's point of view.
"We support criminal prosecution of those who break the law and believe
that effective deterrence is a necessary part of combating piracy," an
RIAA spokeswoman wrote in an e-mail.
In October, the RIAA sent a letter to 2,300 colleges and universities
urging them to "impose effective remedies against violators." In
response, colleges have "dramatically" stepped up their responses to
piracy problems, according to Sheldon Steinbach, general counsel for
the American Council on Education.
"Although one would like to have a simple solution to the problem of
misuse of university bandwidth, the congressman's proposed solution
does not go to the core elements of the issue," Steinbach said of
Carter's push to prosecute college file traders. "There is no simple
Some students have been downloading copyrighted files since they were in
junior high and seem to think it's a perfectly legitimate activity,
Steinbach said. When they get to college, their ability to keep doing
it is facilitated by many universities' large network capacity.
"We have a unique opportunity and obligation to teach young men and
women about the rights and obligations surrounding intellectual
property," he said.
Spanier said Penn State's approach is to educate students about illegal
file trading and to enforce the rules within the university judicial
At Penn State, students are limited to 1.5 GB of inbound or outbound
traffic per week. If students exceed that allotment, they are given a
series of warnings. After the third warning, their network access is
If the school receives a notice from the RIAA, Motion Picture
Association of America or other group that a student has violated
copyright, the student will lose his or her network access and the
school's office of judicial affairs will investigate the allegations.
Penn State also has an ongoing educational program on the topic of file
Universities could also explore developing a licensing arrangement with
a music service that could give students free but legal access to
music, Spanier said. The IT staff at Penn State is looking into this
"In the eyes of some members of Congress, it would have a way of turning
thousands of criminals into good citizens overnight," he said.
One college network administrator said threatening jail time is not
likely to stop illegal file trading.
"I'm not sure that approaching this with a bigger hammer is going to
help very much," said John Lerchey, computer and network security
administrator at Carnegie Mellon University. "Whatever they are going
to do (to discourage illegal file trading) has got to be consistent,
and it's got to be very widespread.
"I've heard from students that as long as the chance of them getting
caught remains low, they're likely to continue to do peer-to-peer file
sharing, regardless if they are violating copyright laws," Lerchey
Colleges have not found an effective way to stop the problem of online
piracy despite an increase in notices of violations from copyright
Lerchey said that in the past few months, Carnegie Mellon has received,
on average, about four requests per week from groups like the MPAA and
RIAA to take action against pirates. Over the past few weeks, though,
Universal Studios has bumped up the number of notices it sends to CMU
to 20 or 30 per day, he said.
When a request comes in, the offending machine is disconnected from the
network, and the user typically loses network access for a set period
of time. The school has not had a problem with repeat offenders.
Still, for the time being, illegal file trading continues to grow on
college campuses. Penn State's Spanier testified before the
congressional subcommittee on intellectual property that it's a fair
estimate that thousands of students on Penn's campus -- and other
universities around the country -- illegally download copyrighted
"I actually think (piracy is) aggravating for everyone involved,"
Lerchey said. "It does take up time and energy -- there is a lot of
things that I would rather be doing with my time. It's certainly an
inconvenience for the people who get busted, and it's likely costing
the MPAA and RIAA money because they are spending a lot of time looking
for this stuff."
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