The best things in life are free
Increased enforcement of school anti-piracy policies run risk of greater financial trouble
Published: Sunday, October 14, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
UB recently ranked eighth on a list of the colleges and universities most actively using BitTorrent, the most heavily monitored file-sharing platform, to illegally download and swap files.
It’s nice seeing UB land on a Top 10 list, but we doubt this is what the university had in mind. If UB happens to stumble upon the list (if it hasn’t already), its first instinct will probably be to strengthen its rules on piracy, but we hope it takes a step back for a second and realizes heavier enforcement could put the school in a greater financial bind.
It has long been said that anti-piracy is unenforceable,but catching illegal downloading on the shared server is possible, as many students have found out, and better security would catch more than just the students only savvy enough to surf BitTorrent. UB currently employs bandwidth shaping, impacting the file sharing of copyrighted material by limiting on ongoing traffic and allowing the school to see the files being downloaded on its server.
What happens when a student is caught illegally downloading at UB? For first offenses, the individual is contacted by campus email to report that UB has received an allegation of copyright infringement, and he or she is enrolled into a one-week UBlearns course named “Copyright.” If the course isn’t completed in a week, the individual’s UBITName is deactivated and a meeting with the computer discipline officer is required (UBITName reactivated after meeting). Charges are filed with the Student-Wide Judiciary for prosecution as student misconduct for repeat offenders.
The repercussions are enough to shake some students and are severe enough that many aren’t willing to test their luck on a second time, especially since the charge lands on your transcript. But many students don’t know the penalties or don’t even care, willing to take the risk to build up their music library or movie collection.
But there are hundreds of ways around all of that. If students are smart enough, they learn at some point to use a virtual private network (VPN) or they take the time to feed song after song through YouTube to MP3 converters.
Our surprise doesn’t come from making a Top 10 list on illegal downloading. There’s a collective shock among our generation that there are still enough people to buy music instead of beating the system and that those numbers aren’t higher. Despite what the ads and warnings read, to us piracy is a victimless crime, and the university doesn’t really realize what a small deal this is for us. So why is it a big deal for the school?
When in doubt, the answer is money.
After legislation in 2010 required colleges and universities to stop file sharing on their networks or risk losing federal funding, schools across the country spent hundreds of thousands of dollars installing anti-file sharing systems on their networks.
So UB is spending money to make its students spend money so it can get money from the government to give money back to the students.
We’re clearly and quickly running in circles. With increased tuition and hiked-up prices on campus, it’s impossible to hold on to any extra cash. Broke students looking to add to their music libraries can’t afford to buy a new album, so instead they pirate it for free. Unenforceable crime or not, school is basically too expensive to not pirate at this point.If they’re worried about financial implications and federal funding, they’re going to have worry about losing other sources of funding. If UB intensifies its policy, students are going to notice, and they’re going to be tentative about coming to a school that’s so intense on its network policies. And if it doesn’t affect admissions, then students not looking to have a mark on their transcripts every time they want to add a new song to their iTunes will at least think twice about living on-campus.
Working that hard to pocket our money, SUNY runs the risk of not being such a great deal anymore. Sounds like very pirate-like behavior to us.