September 7, 2005

Download Habits Change With File Sharing Software

Print More

Last year marked the beginning of a new type of file sharing at Cornell – one that allows students to legally download vast quantities of music without using up their two gigabyte limit. Napster, completely revamped from its original infamous form, allows users to download as much music as they want from a library of over 750,000 songs and stream advertisement-free Internet radio.

Soon after the service started, students complained that Napster did not work with Macs, that the service occasionally only downloaded 30 seconds of a song and that, in order to burn a track to a CD or MP3 player or retain the music after leaving Cornell, there was a 99 cent charge per song.

Nevertheless, by the end of last school year, approximately 9,000 Cornellians had subscribed to the service. About 14,000 people were eligible for the Napster program.

Cornell’s agreement with Napster was part of an effort to curb illegal file sharing by students. Beginning with five notices of copyright infringement at Cornell in Fall 2001, Tracy Mitrano J.D. ’95, director of University Computer Policy and Law, has processed several hundred notices of copyright infringement.

“Upon receipt of notice from the copyright holder” the University blocks the IP address, Mitrano said. Once the IP address is blocked, the individual can delete their files, be unblocked and face the Judicial Administration or file a legal counter notice claiming ownership of the file or proper permission to share the file. Some of the notices that Cornell receives are the result of non-Cornellians hacking into the system.

In a February 2004 article entitled “Campaign Against Illegal Filesharing Continues,” Judicial Administrator Mary Beth Grant said that in the 2002-2003 school year “we had approximately 200 referrals for digital copyright violations.”

Grant also told The Sun that first-time violators usually receive community service or a fine as punishment.

Compared to the large number of notices some colleges and universities must handle, Cornell has relatively few problems and has never received a subpoena for the identity of an IP address user, according to Mitrano.

Mitrano also told The Sun that Cornell “does not monitor the network for content” in order to protect free speech and academic integrity throughout the school.

Last year, a major Cornell direct-connect hub was shut down after a bootleg video of Jon Stewart’s performance at Cornell appear on the server. In an April 5 article in The Sun entitled “Studios, Universities Fight Battles Against Illegal File Sharing,” Jae Kwon ’05 spoke of the renewed file exchange room – which operates under a different name – as “fostering a sense of community among Cornell Resnet users.”

Kwon maintained that a “hub owner doesn’t know what files are traded between users” but said he disconnected users he found sharing copyrighted material.

This article appeared amid MGM v. Grokster, a Supreme Court case over whether file-sharing program makers are liable for secondary copyright infringement since their users trade copyrighted material.

The Supreme Court decided in June that file-sharing program makers could be held liable for illegal usage, based on whether or not they encouraged infringement.

“We adopt it here, holding that one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties,” the Supreme Court decision stated.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 outlaws exchanging or obtaining copyrighted music, games or videos over the internet.

Yet some feel this 18-page addendum to copyright law may not be enough. Prof. Tarleton Gillespie, communications, gave a speech in April about copyright law. Gillespie feels the legal regulations that once protected copyrights are not sufficient.

“Copyright was principled on a moment when they were talking about print,” Gillespie said in an April article in The Sun entitled Prof Speaks About Copyright Law. “Technology [has] stirred old copyright questions.”

In 1999, the Recording Industry Association of America filed a lawsuit against Napster, the first wide-spread file-sharing program that allowed users to download music, both copyrighted and public domain, from strangers. According to Prof. Lawrence Lessig, law, Stanford University, when the RIAA filed the lawsuit, Napster had around 200,000 users; after the lawsuit drew public attention to file sharing and Napster, the number of users grew to 57 million.

Napster, in its original form, worked as a matchmaking service that linked users through a centralized system, allowing Napster to control what content could be found. Thus, Napster was forced to disable access to copyrighted material if the copyright holder told the company about the infringement.

In light of the Napster lawsuit, new peer-to-peer software, often written P2P in Internet slang, was developed; this software has no centralized server but has users search others directly for files.

These newer file-sharing programs, such as KaZaA, cannot be shut down by their creator; once the software exists, users need no parent body to continue.

Nationwide, people trade an estimated 2.6 billion copyrighted files each month through programs such as KaZaA and Grokster.

Archived article by Rebecca Shoval
Sun Staff Writer