MU warns against illegal file sharing

Illegal sharing of files has declined since a 2007 school-wide block.

The Division of Information Technology is aiming to put a stop to illegal file sharing on campus through raising awareness of the activity.

DoIT first addressed the issue this semester in an e-mail sent to students Aug. 30.

The e-mail, which was sent to all MU students, posed the question, “Do you download music, movies or books online? If so, make sure you’re doing it legally, or there can be serious consequences.”

The e-mail stated MU prevents all peer-to-peer applications in order to stop students from downloading copyrighted work. Blocked websites include BitTorrent and LimeWire, which allow users to illegally download virtually unlimited amounts of free music and videos.

DoIT Director Terry Robb said the e-mail did not come as a response to any trend this year.

“It’s really just an awareness campaign,” Robb said. “There’s a whole crop of new freshman who don’t know exactly what is going on.”

Robb said MU has reported a successful year so far. There has been one music-related incident and seven other minor violations since January, he said.

“When we turned off peer-to-peer networking in 2007, that really brought the numbers down,” Robb said. “Since we blocked these programs, it’s not an issue now.”

Freshman Maureen Donahue said she just uses iTunes to buy all her music, but she said she could understand the allure of these popular sites.

“People just don’t want to pay for music in general,” Donahue said. “I think if music was a bit cheaper, a lot less people would use illegal sites.”

Nonetheless, Donahue said the nature of these sites is inherently wrong.

“I don’t think these sites are good to use,” Donahue said. “It’s different if you think about it from the perspective of the artist. You’re kind of cheating them out of what they worked for.”

Donahue said although the legality is the main problem with illegal file sharing, users also run a risk by opening up their media libraries so others can download files. When left open, the chance of acquiring viruses is much higher.

As alternatives to both pay-per-song iTunes and free (but illegal) downloads, Donahue said there are other ways to download music.

“There are plenty of music-downloading sites that only offer a monthly fee,” Donahue said. “That would be a good alternative.”

Donahue and Robb both said the effort involved in this illegal activity is not worth the risk and effort.

“There’s no need to steal music and movies, so just stay legal,” Robb said. “The penalties are simply too high to take those risks in college. There are plenty of paid services and other legal avenues at reasonable prices."

Ultimately, Robb said paying for music is the best way to respect the artists many students idolize and follow.

“Respect the artists who develop those songs and movies,” Robb said. “Pay them a little something for their efforts. Folks should exploit sites that give back to the musicians and artists that provide them with the art they love.”

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