USF students rank high in illegal music downloads

As part of the music industry’s continuing campaign to protect intellectual property rights, the Recording Industry Association of America announced that it sent thousands of formal complaints to more than 100 universities – including USF – concerning individuals illegally downloading music on university networks.

USF ranks 11th on the list of 25 schools, organized by number of complaints received this academic year. USF has received 490 complaints to date, up from 276 during the 2005-2006 school year.

Ohio University tops the list, with 1,287 notices. Purdue University and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln join OU with more than 1,000 notices served this year.

USF is the only Florida university to make the list, which was compiled at the request of the Associated Press.

But WBUL Technical Director Dane Harmon said the rankings don’t reflect the real situation at USF.

“They listed USF as the 11th highest trader of music, but the first thing that came to mind was, ‘Well, USF is the ninth-largest university in the nation,'” he said. “If you look at this on a per-capita basis, I really don’t think we’re that bad.”

According to Assistant Director of Academic Computing Alex Campoe, before students connect to the USF network for the first time, they are required to sign a code of conduct that contains a clause guarding against illegal downloading of copyrighted material.

When the RIAA sends a notice to USF, it is first received by the General Counsel, then forwarded to the Incident Response Team headed by Campoe. The notice contains both a number and a time stamp that his team can evaluate to find the student responsible for the infraction.

Student information is only passed on to the RIAA or any outside agency if it is subpoenaed, Campoe said.

Harmon, who expressed concern over lawsuits leveled by the RIAA, said part of the greater problem lies with the agency.

“Digital copyright laws are new things, and the people that write the laws are really distant from the people who know the technology and understand it,” he said. “Then you have places like the RIAA that want to protect their business interests. What they can do – being such a strong force financially – is they can influence the laws.”

If the incident is the student’s first or second violation, a written warning is sent to both their on- and off-campus e-mail accounts. The student then has 72 hours to reply to the warning before they are placed in quarantine.

“It is a written warning because there are issues; it’s not a clear-cut scenario,” Campoe said. “We try to err on the side of the student being innocent.”

In the event of a third violation, the student’s network connection is closed and the case is sent to Student Judicial Services. The network connection remains closed until the review process is completed.

According to Associate Dean of Student Judicial Services Jason Spratt, there have only been 11 referrals of this kind to date this academic year.

“When you think about the fact that there are only 20 referrals that have been made for third-time violations, then a lot of people are getting the point on that first warning or that second warning,” Spratt said.