Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The perils of dowloading music illegally

I am sure that most of have read about college students being fined or criminally charged for illegally downloading music from the Internet. This has been going on for several years much to the distress of artists and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA, http://www.riaa.com/aboutus.php). It all started with Napster, then Kazaa, and now Limewire and BitTorrent. These file sharing tools allow people to share music or video without purchase. Although this sounds great to resourceful consumers, it is illegal and frequently results in suits or at least warnings from the RIAA. The RIAA seems to target college students because of their tech savvy nature and interest in obtaining free media. Colleges and universities across the country frequently hear from the RIAA and have to spend time and energy tracking down illegal downloads and those sharing media. There is incrasing pressure from the federal government for campuses to get actively involved in the prevention of media file sharing (http://campustechnology.com/articles/47988/ .

To combat this illegal activity many universities have adopted packet shaping technologies or other tools to try and limit or block the illegal downloading or sharing over the campus networks. Most have not fully succeeded in this effort. In the near future this will become even more challenging, since more legal media is now being shared. An example of legal media might be a podcast (MP3 audio file) of a lecture or presentation. This is a growing form of communication offered by companies, universities, and media outlets. How do we separate the legal from the illegal? Not very easily or very effectively.

As an alternative, some campus are providing legal music sharing services within their networks. An example of one of these is www.ruckus.com . Campuses can sign up for Ruckus and students can have access to most of their favorite music for free. Of course they are hit with pretty excessive advertising, but this is nothing new and is par for the course with most media and news services on the web.

Parents and students should look for legal alternatives to music and video file sharing. At my campus we have seen warnings and at least one law suit resulting in a fine of over $2000 for illegal file sharing. There are plenty of legal options that might cost a little money like www.itunes, www.amazon.com , www.rhapsody.com ,or even www.walmart.com . My university severely limits MP3 downloads on the network, so the downloading process takes forever. This is an effort to limit its attractiveness, but we can see that this tactic will not be effective forever.

Its a legality thing, an ethical thing, and the right thing to discourage digital theft. Please do the right thing

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