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Schools take measures to stop the music

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Despite the old comfort of security in numbers, the Recording Industry Association of America has managed to worry some music file sharers when it announced its lawsuits against 261 illegal downloaders this month.

This summer, the RIAA also sent subpoenas to hundreds of people nationwide, including two students at Loyola University Chicago and one at DePaul University.

Despite the subpoenas against other universities, Marquette has not beefed-up its network policies. No action has been taken against Marquette students, according to Ben Tracy, director of university communication.

Marquette has limited the bandwidth available to popular file-sharing Web sites in an attempt to deter file sharing, Tracy said. Limiting the bandwidth makes music files download more slowly. The limited bandwidth was enacted before the RIAA subpoenas were publicized.

As was policy last year, any students caught illegally downloading music files will have their Internet privileges suspended. Many students received letters from the university at the start of the semester warning that such an action would be taken if they continued file sharing.

Sophomore Katie Postal, who received a letter, said she doesn’t mind not downloading anymore.

“I wasn’t all that interested (in downloading music), but it was there, so I was doing it,” Postal said.

Tracy stresses the students’ liability with regard to illegal downloading.

“Students need to realize this is a serious thing,” he said. “You can get subpoenaed, sued, fined and even in some cases go to jail. It’s not file-sharing, it’s file-stealing.”

Fines can run as high as $150,000 per song under the copyright law, though most are settled out of court.

Although anyone downloading copyrighted music illegally could be sued, those people with many files are most at risk. The RIAA usually targets those with over 1,000 illegal files.

“As a practical matter, moderate users are not at any real risk,” said Erik Ugland, assistant professor of broadcast and electronic communication.

After its two students were subpoenaed, Loyola University reinforced and revised its existing policies and procedures, said Bud Jones, associate vice president of public relations at Loyola.

Loyola students must now answer prompts when initially logging on to the school’s computer network, agreeing to not participate in illegal file-sharing, Jones said.

“Students (at Loyola) are more aware of the risk,” Jones said.

Like Marquette, though, Loyola stopped short of imposing any major restrictions.

“We didn’t put up blockers, so it’s still very much up to the students (whether to file share or not).” Jones said.

Looking toward the future, Jones said, “The best solution that I’ve heard is the RIAA working with universities and offering students downloading at a very reasonable fee.”

Similar options are currently available. The recording industry offers authorized downloading services through relatively cheap online subscriptions with high quality downloads and less risk of viruses.

In addition, RIAA is granting amnesty to users who turn themselves in and sign a declaration promising to delete all illegal files and never again engage in unlawful file sharing.

Despite the alternatives, many students continue to download music illegally.

“There are millions of people who do it,” said freshman Michelle Burtscher, a frequent downloader. “Why would they care if I do?”

With only the threat of Internet suspension on campus, students continue to take a gamble when assuming security among the vast number of downloaders across the country.

“The University isn’t worried about it as much as students should be,” Tracy said.

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