There has been a recent uptick in pirated movies on the University of Indianapolis Wi-Fi network. This semester’s numbers have doubled last semester’s numbers of about three to four notices per week of copyright violation from the Motion Pictures Association of America, according to Application Support Specialist Shawn Austin.
Associate Vice President of Information Systems Steven Herriford sent an email April 3 that said the number of copyright violation notices has increased. The email also reminded students that the UIndy is not responsible for protecting students from any legal action. Herriford said that the university does not have the capacity to monitor everything that occurs online in the university’s network.
According to Herriford, the MPA will send out a notice whenever illegal downloads are discovered. The notice includes what was being downloaded and what time. From there, UIndy will try to identify who did it. According to Herriford, movies have been the most frequent violations as well as peer-to-peer file sharing.
According to copyright.com, peer-to-peer sharing is when digital and computer files are shared from person to person. While the act itself is not illegal, it is usually used to distribute software, photographs, videos, music and games, all of which are copyright protected.
When a student violates copyright, the university is not at risk because of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, according to General Manager of WICR-FM and Instructor of Communication Scott Uecker. He said this law was passed to protect Internet Service Providers. Uecker explained that just because a student uses the university’s bandwidth or network to infringe upon copyright, under the DMCA, the university will not get in trouble. At the same time, though, the act also states that the Internet service provider is responsible for removing the content, according to Uecker.
According to both Herriford and Uecker, the Copyright Law of 1976 protects images, video, music, television shows, movies, articles and blogs. Uecker explained that even posting a photo on Facebook or tweeting a photo that was not taken by the user is, under the law, copyright infringement.
Herriford said that when a student illegally downloads content, and the university is made aware of it, it is a first offense, he or she is sent an email explaining that he or she has to delete the content and that more serious actions will be taken if there is a second offense.
“We won’t protect you,” Herriford said. “And we won’t defend you.”
Herriford and Austin both agreed that oftentimes there are not repeat offenders, but if there is, the student’s account is suspended and he or she has to see Vice President for Student and Campus Affairs and Dean of Students Kory Vitangeli. As for the law, the student could be sued and face up to five years in prison and have to pay $250,000 per offense.
“It is very costly very quickly,” Herriford said. “Instead of paying $2.99 to legally download a movie, you did it for free, and it costs you hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Uecker also explained that it is important for students to think about their own work and how they would feel if it were illegally downloaded or used, a lesson he emphasizes in his communication law course.
“This all seems to be acceptable until it is your work that gets stolen,” Uecker said. “… It’s our goal to make students understand that if you’re willing to violate copyright, you have no right to be protected by copyright. It’s a double standard to violate copyright but then later on ask that your work be protected.”
Because students live in a world where nearly everything can be downloaded at high speed, Herriford said that it is important for students to understand not only what the repercussions of illegal downloading are, but also that there are legal ways to download content.
“I just think from our perspective, we don’t want to be police,” Herriford said. “It’s more about educating and informing than being the police. I think if a student questions it, it is better to ask than to take a risk.”