Julio Sanchez is an avid music fan. From Led Zeppelin to G-Unit, Sanchez listens to a lot of music, most of which is illegally downloaded off of the Internet.
“I download music because it’s probably the easiest and most relaxing way to spend my leisure time when I’m not studying,” said 18-year-old Sanchez. He uses the application BearShare which acts like a large network between thousands of users who, at the click of a mouse, can download a song on their computers within minutes.
As convenient as it is, the Recording Industry Association of America has declared this practice illegal and filed more than 260 lawsuits against users of file-sharing programs, many of whom are college students. Some lawsuits have been filed for as much as $150,000 per illegal song.
In response to this, Temple issued a policy four years ago that dictates the rules about file sharing, which are put as simply as possible: “Don’t do it.”
In addition to issues of legality, file sharing has clogged and spread viruses throughout networks, according to Vice President of Computer and Information Services Tim O’Rourke. He said many students’ computers are almost dysfunctional due to the amount of Spyware – the type of program that causes pop-up advertisements – on their computers.
“It’s harmful to the students, it’s harmful to our network, and it’s illegal,” he said. “It’s bad, bad business.” O’Rourke cited an incident when five students who were using file-sharing programs broke the connection at the Ambler campus.
Computer Services has taken numerous preventative measures to curtail illegal filesharing, such as filters to block file-sharing activity and education in the form of speeches and seminars about the dangers and detriments of downloading media.
“It’s not a problem because of the steps we take,” O’Rourke said. “If we allowed it, it would bring our network down.”
Even with the preventative steps, Temple students are still finding ways to download music on a daily basis, and there seems to be a general consensus it’s something in which the majority of students partake. Moreover, most of the programs that students use are the same programs that O’Rourke claims Computer Services has blocked, such as Kazaa and BearShare.
“I do it. Everyone does it,” said one freshman who preferred to remain anonymous. The policy states that any student caught downloading illegal media will be removed from the network and forced to cleanse the computer of any programs that file share. Once students do this, they must sign a paper agreeing not to perform the restricted behavior again. If they do, they are permanently removed from the network. The policy also states that students’ names and information will be divulged to authorities if necessary.
Even with such harsh repercussions, students seem unwavering.
“The fact that I know there are boundaries and rules that prohibit me from downloading music doesn’t really bother me and I have the feeling that it doesn’t really scare any other students,” Sanchez said.
After the Recording Industry Association of America’s lawsuit against Napster, the company which set the standard for file-sharing programs and became an icon in the conflict between music industries and tech-savvy music fans, the company settled and gave users an alternative: a monthly fee of $9.95 to use the program. More recently, Apple released the media program iTunes which features the Music Store, where users can download songs at $.99 a piece.
In November 2003, Penn State University offered its students a different way of sharing music by allowing them to stream – listen without downloading – music off of Napster for free. Students can also download songs onto their hard drives for a per-item fee.
O’Rourke said Computer Services is currently developing a similar system that brings legal music-downloading to students while lowering the price at the same time.
“I know that students like to download music,” O’Rourke said. “We want to offer them a legal way to do it.”
Sanchez says whether or not he would use the prospective program depends on how it works and how much it costs. But even a lower cost service can’t beat something that’s free.
“I’m a college student,” he said. “Money is precious.”
Andrew Thompson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.