Illegal downloads could cost students

Rachel Christian

Students who illegally download and pirate online content on campus may face more severe consequences, according to a new policy introduced by the Dean of Students Office at the Student Government Association’s (SGA) first meeting.

The new policy, known as the Student Copyright Infringement Policy, will hold students financially responsible for any fines or fees USI has to pay in copyright disputes.

USI purchased software last year that tracks which students on campus are downloading illegal content though the school’s WiFi, said Angela Batista, Dean of Students.

If a student is flagged by this software, their WiFi access will be terminated immediately and the student will receive a message from Information Technology instructing them report to the Dean of Students Office.

According to the policy, the Dean of Students Office will discuss the copyright infringement with the student. The student must attend the initial meeting to have their internet access restored.

At the meeting, the student can choose to sign a form accepting all responsibility for downloading, or they can set up a formal hearing.

If the student signs the form or is found guilty of illegally downloading, “the student will be responsible for restitution of any fines or USI legal fees associated with the violation.”

The student may also be charged a $100 fee from USI if the university is contacted by the person who holds the copyright.

“This kind of software and procedure is pretty typical at other schools,” said Tara Frank, assistant dean of students. “USI is just now getting around to it.”

Mary Drury, a computer network administrator, said USI has been tracking piracy for “quite a while,” but didn’t start enforcing it until last year.

Drury said the university had received take-down notices in the past, which are letters or emails from a company who has traced the IP address of a downloader and asks them to stop downloading.

But some companies want to take legal action and fine the university, which is taken more seriously.

“The university deemed it to be a smart move to make this policy to protect students and itself,” Drury said.

Frank Wilson, a freshman computer science major, said he thinks the policy is a little extreme, but understands why the university is doing it.

“After all, it isn’t their fault if a student torrents, so they shouldn’t have to pay the fines,” Wilson said.

He said he thinks the university should make more of an effort to let students know the policy is in place.