March 29, 2007
Vol. 26 No. 13

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    Jackson warns of music, film industries’ current efforts to police illegal peer-to-peer file sharing

    Josh Schonwald
    News Office

    Greg Jackson
    (Photo by Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee)

    Earlier this month, the University’s Chief Information Officer Greg Jackson alerted faculty, staff and students to increased efforts by the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America to police copyright violations.

    In an effort to curb illegal peer-to-peer file sharing operations, media organizations have been filing an increasing number of complaints with colleges and universities, including Chicago. Jackson, Vice President and CIO of Networking Services & Information Technologies, explained that these complaints, filed under the DCMA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act), could result in penalties not only for the user but also for the University.

    In the previous four years, Jackson said, the University has received between 50 and 90 complaints annually. But this year, the number of complaints has risen sharply. “It’s only March, and we’ve received more than 30 complaints,” he said. Furthermore, Jackson said, companies such as HBO now contract services to scan the Internet for file-sharing abuse.

    Agents hired by media companies have contacted the University with several “intents to subpoena.” Aimed at stopping large-scale file-sharing violations, a subpoena to the University, Jackson explained, would require the University’s Networking Services & Information Technology to reveal the names of the individuals involved; NSIT already takes immediate action to stop illegal sharing whenever the University receives a valid DCMA complaint. If prosecuted, Jackson said, penalties for violators could cost thousands of dollars.

    Jackson said that many members of the University community might be unaware they are engaging in illegal file sharing. For instance, many people share music on subnets across campus. It is perfectly legal to listen to another person’s iPod playlist , so long as the music file isn’t actually copied. “That’s because,” Jackson explained, “there is never a transfer of property from one person to another.” What is illegal, Jackson warned, is ripping music from a CD, converting its content into MPEG files and sharing those with a friend who then puts those files on their iPod. “If I give my son a song that I listen to on my iPod, and he loads it onto his iPod, that’s illegal,” he said.

    Jackson urged faculty, staff and students to remove any illegally obtained copyrighted material and/or peer-to-peer applications that might illegally share copyrighted material from any computer that is managed on the University network.

    He also advised people who use peer-to-peer applications to set the systems to block their ability to act as providers of unlicensed materials. The University offers a step-by-step tutorial on how to block this function of peer-to-peer applications at http://security.uchicago.edu.

    Jackson emphasized that the University is required by law to take action when notified that someone on its network is distributing copyrighted materials without a license. “Policing is not something we want to be spending our time and resources on,” he said, “but we’re required by law to do so.” If NSIT is alerted to a violation, Jackson said, “We will have to disable the computer’s network connection until the copyright violation is rectified.”

    For more information on the University’s Eligibility and Acceptable Use Policy, please visit: http://nsit.uchicago.edu/eaup. The policy notes that the University network may not be used for illegal purposes or those that consume network capacity and other resources intended for teaching, research and other core purposes.