December 6, 2001

Copyright Laws Send Violators To C.U. Judiciary

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In its latest battle to detect and punish copyright violators, record labels have joined forces with NetPD, a London-based company to target students violating copyright laws. Cornell is feeling the effect of this new effort to discover copyright infringements.

There has been a significant increase in cases regarding copyright infringements this semester, according to Tracy Mitrano J.D. ’95, Cornell policy advisor and director of computer law and technology at the University. There have been approximately 40 copyright infringement notices received from NetPD this semester.

Just yesterday, Mitrano received a notice from NetPD implicating four students, one of whom is listed as having made seven copyright offenses. She said that she receives about three of these notices a week.

“Laws are stricter than they used to be, and are being enforced. Cornell University does not monitor what students are sending in their e-mails or what they have on the web pages, but industries do,” said Mary Beth Grant, Cornell’s Judicial Administrator.

NetPD uses software to scan file-sharing services and to identify people who illegally download music. NetPD is hired by outside corporations, and has not disclosed a complete list of its clients. The company’s website lists some clients, however, including Sony Corporation.

After finding files that have been illegally downloaded, NetPD notifies the university with the accused students’ IP addresses.

“NetPD first notifies CIT (Cornell Information Technologies) and then the Office of Information Technologies, the administration arm of CIT. I send the notification to network operations center to analyze and find the student who matches the IP address,” Mitrano said. “From there, I send a notice to the student, and [a copy] to the judicial administrator.”

“If Cornell ignores the letter [received from NetPD], it can face being sued for up to $30,000,” said Grant.

Cornell is liable under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) for up to $30,000 if it does not respond to the notification, since the violations are occurring on its server, Mitrano added.

Cornell’s response to NetPD notices has been to refer those students who allegedly downloaded copyrighted material to the judicial administrator, where their rights and the charges against them are explained. Students have a right to remain silent and to have a

friend, lawyer, or the judicial code counselor present.

“I act like a public defender for students and want the students to know that my office is open to help them,” said Emanuel Tsourounis II ’00, JD, judicial codes counselor.

In most cases, students are offered a summary decision agreement, according to Grant. In a summary decision agreement, the student admits to being guilty of the charge, and receives community service, a record until graduation, and often times must complete a reflection paper.

“The educational sanctions that a student receives are fairly standard for similar cases, but differ from person to person if there are aggravating or mitigating circumstances, or if there are prior violations of the Code. We figure what is fair and responsible and offer that to the

student,” Grant said.

Students however can choose to request a hearing for their case, and then later have the option to appeal the hearing’s finding.

However, Joshua Bronstein ’05, S.A. new student representative, has not seen a decrease in the use of file-sharing services in freshman dorms.

“People have stopped sharing, but are continuing to take [songs] off sites,” Bronstein said. Fewer people are caught downloading to songs than are from sharing the files with others, as Bronstein has noticed.

Other freshman dorm residents agree that there has been little deterrence from using file-sharing sites.

“I have a few friends, though not many, that stopped using the sites because they are scared,” said Celine Cattier ’05.

“A lot of people have switched the particular program they are using to avoid being detected,” said Jeffrey Knight ’05.

Mitrano has also found varying responses from those students notified of copyright infringements.

“Some students don’t have a clue while others are mortified, angry and scared. All these reactions are valid given the technology that exists that allows downloading [of songs] and the laws that make this technology use illegal,” Mitrano said.

Mitrano’s first piece of advice to students is “to simply stop downloading songs of Incubus and Michael Jackson.”

These are two artists whose music NetPD has been monitoring closely.

“Students must also realize that however unfair or prevalent the practice [of file sharing] may be, it is still illegal. Students create liability for themselves and the University,” Mitrano said.

The use of these file sharing services has also created a financial burden for the students and University since “more than two-thirds of Resnet bandwidth capacity is being used for file sharing protocols for outbound use,” according to Mitrano.

This means that the majority of bandwidth capacity is being expended by those individuals outside the Cornell community who are sharing files with Cornell students.

Archived article by Jamie Yonks