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Updated 12:15 PM June 6, 2005




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U-M to investigate complaints of illegal file sharing

The University has responded to recent notification by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) of file sharing possibly in violation of copyright laws by 14 users of the University's computer system.

In each case, Internet2 was the medium used for the alleged illegal activity. The alert, similar to one sent to 17 other schools where possible violations had been detected, came in a letter from RIAA received April 14.

The instances of possible copyright violation brought to the University's attention by RIAA are being investigated, says Liz Sweet, director of the User Advocate Office. Sweet says the procedure is to identify the subnet of each of the Internet protocol (IP) addresses and to forward the alert to the appropriate system administrators for action.

"We don't know the names. The administrators contact the individuals so that their privacy can be maintained as much as possible," Sweet says. "If the individual doesn't respond in a timely manner, our policy is to block network access to the material until we are assured that the violations will stop."

Responding in a letter April 21, James Hilton, associate provost for academic, information and instructional technology affairs, noted that the University was quick to take steps to make sure that the institution was in compliance with the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998 when it was enacted.

"Two years ago, the RIAA cited our compliance procedures and education campaigns as models for higher education. We believe that we continue to do an excellent job in these efforts," Hilton wrote.

He also pointed to U-M's Acceptable Use Policies, which explicitly prohibit the use of the network to violate copyright.

"We actively educate our students about copyright issues and the appropriate and inappropriate ways to use file-sharing software. As new technologies such as Internet2 emerge, we will continue to educate students about the implications of their use," Hilton wrote.

For several years, RIAA has been targeting individual computer users who are offering substantial amounts of copyrighted music files for free on peer-to-peer networks. These are the first violations involving Internet2 users at U-M. RIAA uses Webcrawling software to identify computers on which illegal file sharing may be occurring.

"It's important for our community to be reminded that new technology, in this case Internet2, does not change the requirements of the DMCA," says Jack Bernard of the Office of General Counsel. "The same rules apply. So far, the RIAA has not filed suit against these individuals and we hope they don't because we've taken quick action. We're hoping that U-M computer users will heed the warning that the RIAA is continually searching for violators," he says.

Bernard adds that users of Internet2 should be aware that it is easier for RIAA—and the Motion Picture Association, which also searches for copyright infringement on the Internet—to spot violations, because fewer people have access to Internet2.

Hilton says the University has taken steps to introduce students to the legal alternatives for access to music, films and other media.

"Since we believe that students should learn to make good decisions concerning the purchase of entertainment services and to form the habit of paying for music, we recently have chosen to enter into an agreement with digital media service provider Cdigix," he says. The agreement allows faculty to access digital media in support of their classes.

"Faculty can choose from a wide variety of media for their courses and Cdigix will deliver them to our network using their hardware with all of the appropriate access controls. Students will then have access to the material through our course management software," he says.

The University's relationship with Cdigix, Hilton adds, also will allow students to purchase entertainment services directly from Cdigix without the University serving as intermediary.

"We are excited about our arrangements with Cdigix. We believe that this service will enhance the classroom experience and provide highly visible ways for students to purchase music and movies legally," Hilton says.

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