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Local News

Friday, 2 March, 2007 10:24 PM

The Record Industry is cracking down on College Students who Download Music Illegally
by Jason Rzucidlo
americajr@americajr.com

The entire music industry is in uproar about the negative effects that illegal music downloading creates and students at Michigan's top three universities (U of M, MSU and Wayne State) have already received warning letters.

All it takes is a simple mouse click to get a song on your computer and transfer it to your mp3 player. However, it can also put your computer at risk of getting a virus and it can get you in trouble with the law.

Some popular programs for downloading music include LimeWire, Kazaa, Morpheus, Bit Torrent, BearShare and Fast Tracks. These programs all operate on the peer-to-peer network, which means files are being swapped from one computer to another. Users are aware of the laws and regulations against downloading illegally but they still continue to do so.

An electrical engineering student who wished to remain unidentified said that he uses the BearShare program. He has downloaded over 4,000 songs to date and plays them on his 30GB Apple iPod. “I don’t like paying for music,” the WSU senior said. He’s been downloading music for the last three or four years.

By downloading pirated music and movies, users are hurting everyone who works to bring the finished product to the market. People are losing their jobs as these users listen to illegally downloaded music. It hurts the artists, producers, record companies and everyone else that works in the business.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) says that more than half of U.S. college students have downloaded pirated music at least once. According to a press release, college students represent 25% of all illegal music downloaders, higher than any other age group.

Record companies have filed lawsuits against students at over 130 college campuses. In addition, the RIAA mailed thousands of notice letters to universities who have students that were caught downloading pirated content. The organization encourages universities to step in and enforce copyright laws.

The RIAA just sent out 400 letters to students at 13 different universities. The association has launched a campaign to settle the claims at a discounted rate before a lawsuit becomes filed. The RIAA is not done. They will continue to monitor and pursue enforcement actions against university network users.

According to a press release, the RIAA has tripled the number of letters it’s sending to universities nationwide. For example, at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor), 93 notices were sent out in 2005-06 and 400 have already been sent out this school year. At MSU, the numbers are even higher with 418 letters last year and 753 mailed this academic year.

The RIAA said 57 notice letters were sent to WSU students in the 2005-06 academic year. Already this school year, 52 notice letters were sent to students. WSU is not in the top 25 schools. It is far from it. However, it is still a problem worth noting.

I get complaints from RIAA at least a couple a week. We get a warning. I pass it onto security. This isn’t a huge problem,” said Dr. Patrick Gossman, interim Chief Information Officer at WSU. “The Dean of Students could impose any number of sanctions up to and including expulsion.” No students at WSU have been expelled for this reason to date.

The worst offender was Ohio University with 232 notices last year and 1,287 notices mailed so far in the 2006-07 school year. Ohio University is located in Athens, Ohio. Purdue University came in second place and the Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln came in third place, among top downloading college campuses.

"The problem, of course, is that there are many smart people in the world, some with a lot of time on their hands, who love to discover such secrets and publish a way for everyone to get free (and stolen) music,” said Apple CEO Steve Jobs in a statement on the company’s web site. “It is a cat and mouse game.

More than 90 million Apple iPods have been sold through the end of last year, according t Jobs. Apple also operates a legal, music-downloading program called the ‘iTunes Music Store.’ It has sold 2 billion songs up to the beginning of this year.

Tanesha Burch is an elementary education student at WSU. She has been downloading music for her iPod from the iTunes music store since 2001. Burch explains that she normally takes the music from her CDs and transfers them to her mp3 player to make it more convenient.

Ruckus.com is a new web site offers free music downloads to all college students who have a “.edu” email address. The web site currently features more than 2 1/2 million songs for students to download. The web site is totally legal and has contracts with all the major record labels.

College students are the most engaged and active customers of digital media. We understand the needs and wants of college students, and are pretty sure they are not readily using services like iTunes,” said Chris Lawson, Director of Corporate Development at Ruckus.

Currently, hundreds of thousands of college students are already using the site to get their favorite tracks. The web site has paid licensing fees with its advertising revenue. The RIAA supports this web site as an alternative to downloading music on the peer-to-peer network. By using this site, students can feel confident that they will not be subject to fines and court cases.

If anything, we will be hurting p2p networks that students will no longer need to use, “ Lawson added. “It is 100% legal and legit.

Costa Steven is a first year student at Wayne State University. He downloads music by using iTunes Music Store and Limewire. The liberal art major has about 2,500 songs on his iPod and a total of 6,000 on his computer. Steven also takes music from CDs that he purchased and puts them on his iPod.

I am thinking of taking Limewire off my computer,” Steven said. He said that some songs from Limewire have caused his iPod to turn off involuntarily.

For more information on the free music-downloading site for college students, visit www.ruckus.com.

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