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Date: Sat, 20 Sep 2003 22:10:03 -0400
From: Ruben I Safir
To: hangout-at-nylxs.com, fairuse-at-nylxs.com
Subject: [hangout] P2P is moral and upright
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September 20, 2003 Students Shall Not Download. Yeah, Sure. By KATE
STATE COLLEGE, Pa., Sept. 17 ? In the rough and tumble of the student
union here at Pennsylvania State University, the moral code is purely
Thou shalt not smoke ? it will kill you.
Thou shalt not lift a term paper off the Internet ? it will get you
Thou shalt not use a fake ID ? it will get you arrested.
And when it comes to downloading music or movies off the Internet,
students here compare it with under-age drinking: illegal, but not
immoral. Like alcohol and parties, the Internet is easily accessible.
Why not download, or drink, when "everyone" does it?
This set of commandments has helped make people between the ages of 18
and 29, and college students in particular, the biggest downloaders of
"It's not something you feel guilty about doing," said Dan Langlitz, 20,
a junior here. "You don't get the feeling it's illegal because it's so
easy." He held an MP3 player in his hand. "They sell these things, the
sites are there. Why is it illegal?"
Students say they have had the Internet for as long as they can
remember, and have grown up thinking of it as theirs for the taking.
The array of services available to them on campus has only encouraged
Penn State recently made the student center, known as the Hub, entirely
wireless, so students do not even have to dial up to get on the
Internet. In comfortable armchairs, they sit clicking on Google
searches, their ears attached to iPods, cellphones a hand away. A swipe
of a student ID gets them three free newspapers. They do not need cash ?
only a swipe card, the cost included in their student fees ? to buy
anything from a caramel caffè latte to tamale pie at an abundance of
fast food counters. There is a bank branch and a travel agency, and a
daily activities board lists a Nascar simulator as well as rumba
Many courses put all materials ? textbook excerpts, articles, syllabuses
? online. Residence halls offer fast broadband access ? which studies
say makes people more likely to download.
"It kind of spoils us, in a sense, because you get used to it," said
Jill Wilson, 20, a sophomore.
The ease of going online has shaped not only attitudes about
downloading, but cheating as well, blurring the lines between right and
wrong so much that many colleges now require orientation courses that
give students specific examples of what plagiarism looks like. Students
generally know not to buy a paper off the Internet, but many think it is
O.K. to pull a paragraph or two, as long as they change a few words.
"Before, when you had to go into the library and at least type it in to
your paper, you were pretty conscious about what you were doing," said
Janis Jacobs, vice-provost for undergraduate education here. "That means
we do have to educate students about what is O.K. It's the same whether
you're talking about plagiarizing a phrase from a book or article or
downloading music ? it all seems free to them."
Last year and again last week, the university sent out an e-mail message
reminding students that downloading copyrighted music was illegal, and
pleading with them to "resist the urge" to download. It also warned
students that it had begun monitoring how much information students are
downloading, and that they could lose their Internet access if their
weekly use exceeded a limit administrators described as equivalent to
tens of thousands of e-mail messages sent.
This year, all students had to take an online tutorial before receiving
access to their e-mail accounts, acknowledging that they had read and
agreed to university policy prohibiting the downloading of copyrighted
At the same time, realizing the difficulties of stopping downloading,
Penn State's president, Graham B. Spanier, is hoping to try out a
program this spring where the university would pay for the rights to
music, and then allow students to download at will.
To students, the crackdown seemed like a sudden reversal.
"Up until recently, we were not told it was wrong," said Kristin Ebert,
19. "We think if it's available, you can use it. It's another resource."
When representatives from the technology services department told
students about the bandwidth monitoring, Ms. Ebert said, they outlined
the reasonable limits in terms of movies downloaded. "They weren't
encouraging it, but they used it as a frame of reference," she said.
"They were aware, but they weren't doing anything to correct it."
Penn State has taken a harder line than most other campuses. But whether
here or at other campuses, students do not seem to be grasping the moral
According to a study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project last
spring, 56 percent of college students download music, compared with
about 25 percent of nonstudents, and those students are more likely than
downloaders in general ? 80 percent to 67 percent ? to say they do not
care that the music is copyrighted when they download it. (The study
came before recent lawsuits by the recording industry against 261 people
it says have shared copyrighted music over the Internet. But researchers
defend the report's relevancy, saying it came after the industry had
shut down Napster and begun a widespread advertising campaign against
Similarly, studies by the Center for Academic Integrity show a decline
in traditional peering-over-someone's-shoulder cheating, but a steady
rise in Internet plagiarism from 1999 to 2003.
Here, the warnings against plagiarism seem to have sunk in better than
those about downloading. But even some of the lessons about plagiarism
came as a surprise to students who had freely used the Internet in high
"When I came in, I didn't expect any of this to be plagiarism," said
Maria Sansone, 22, a senior. "The idea you had to cite what you took off
the Internet was new. I think a lot of people don't know where to draw
Elizabeth Kiss, director of the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke
University, said she suspected that older generations were not more
ethical, just less techno-savvy. "I don't think we've done a very good
job of making the argument that it's different if it's copyrighted," Ms.
Kiss said. "If students haven't grown up with that being a conversation,
they're not thinking about it."
Ann Morrissey, 19, confessed that she had not even listened to all the
songs she had downloaded. "I have 400 songs, I listen to 20," she said.
"I don't know why," she added, then laughed self consciously, and
answered herself, "You can, and it's cool to have them."
She, like others, does not see the harm done, and remains suspicious of
the recording industry.
"How are you going to make downloading illegal when you can still smoke
legally and give yourself lung cancer?" Ms. Morrissey asked. "There are
a lot worse issues you could focus on."
The university has sent warnings about exceeding bandwidth to a couple
of hundred students. But on a campus with 42,000 students, punishment
seems remote to many.
"No one close to home has gotten in trouble," said Andrew Ricken, a
A common analogy ? downloading music is like stealing a CD ? does not
sway students. Many argue that they are spending more money on music.
"I never went out and bought CD's; now I go to concerts, because I know
what kind of music people play," said Kristen Lipski, 20. "If you can
get your music out to a big group of people to listen to, they'll go to
your CD, go to your concert, spend money on posters. It's really
expensive, especially for college students, to buy the whole CD."
Mr. Langlitz was on his way to a concert downtown by Taking Back Sunday,
a band he said he would never have heard without downloading. "A lot of
the bands I know about aren't that well-known," he said. "Before I saw
their CD's, I had them in my computer."
These are the same arguments adults make. But while adults who remember
the days of LP's seem willing to pay 99 cents a song, students see any
transition from free as a denial of basic right.
"A dollar a song is just not worth it," said Edwin Shaw, a 20-year-old
junior walking across campus with his MP3 player and trying to confirm
which night the Red Hot Chili Peppers were playing on campus.
At best, the new warnings seemed to have some students negotiating new
At a table with friends, John Dixon was debating whether he would be
caught if he traded songs only with his roommates on their local area
network, off campus. Just to be safe, he is sticking mostly to
downloading music from CD's. He is not sharing his files ? not because
he sees it as illegal, but because he hears that the record industry is
going mainly after sharers, not downloaders.
"The risk is higher," Mr. Dixon said.
Ms. Wilson, too, is not sharing, though she has continued downloading.
"That doesn't make it right," she said. "But it's not that big a deal,
right?" -- __________________________ Brooklyn Linux Solutions
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