The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Illegal music downloading on the down low, report says

Tim, a sophomore, sometimes downloads .mp3s from his dorm room.But he said he’s slowing down.

“I’ve probably only downloaded a handful of thingsthis semester,” said Tim, who asked not to be identified.”I can do it pretty easily, but it’s not really worthit anymore.”

Tim is not alone. Music downloading among college students hasfallen significantly in recent months.

A study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project inspring 2003 found that 56 percent of college students surveyeddownloaded music. When the group conducted another survey at theend of 2003, that number had dropped to 24 percent.

The study noted the decline in sharing began in June 2003,immediately after the Recording Industry Association of Americaannounced it would be filing lawsuits against file-sharers. Thesteepest decline occurred in September, when the RIAA filed thefirst of its approximately 900 lawsuits.

However, it was not the threat of the lawsuits themselves, butthe response from universities that prompted the biggest changes,students said.

“I couldn’t care less about the RIAA,personally,” Tim said. “The real reason studentsaren’t sharing as much is because universities are blockingthe file sharing programs.”

“The threat is to the school itself,” said CharlesTaylor, a sophomore engineering major who does not download .mp3files. “The [students] here could care less about thelawsuits, but the school is the institution that would get charged.They’re the ones taking action,” he said.

Taylor did not see the lawsuits themselves as a real threat.

“Declaring bankruptcy as a college student might be betterthan [paying off student loans],” he joked. “I mightactually welcome [a lawsuit.]”

The December Pew survey also measured the activity on four ofthe most popular file sharing networks – KaZaA, Grokster,WinMX and BearShare. The study found activity on these networksdropped by as much by 59 percent over the last half of 2003.

SMU’s Information and Technology Services has a bylawprohibiting the copying of a file without explicit permission ofthe file’s owner. SMU currently has a complex firewall systemthat blocks several of the networks. This system poses asignificant barrier to easy .mp3 access.

“I would definitely download music if SMU didn’thave the firewalls up,” sophomore Kathy Sanders said.”And even though SMU students can’t download the musicfiles, there are still plenty of people who just burn theirfriends’ CDs.”

However, the system is not impenetrable. A number of studentshave found ways to circumvent SMU’s blocks.

“There is legal software that students can use to obtain.mp3 files,” Tim said. “It’s not simple to setup, but the files are easy to get once you have the programsthere.”

“I understand the idea of the rule,” said Mary, afilm major who asked not to be identified. “But I don’tthink it has any real effect because I still download music atschool.”

Tim said he didn’t feel guilty about violating federalcopyright law because he felt the recording company kept too muchof the CD revenue for themselves.

“The [RIAA] artist only gets a slight percentage of whatthe CD costs,” he said. “A lot of independent labelswill let anyone download a free .mp3 to see if they like the band.I’d feel guiltier if I felt like I was taking money out oftheir pockets.

“It’s like, I wouldn’t feel guilty taking $20from [SMU], because they have so many resources, but if I see a guywalking down the hall drop some cash, I’d give it back tohim.”

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