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File swapping at universities - "legal gray area"
By Jon Newton,
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Music Industry News - as it happens
Source: MusicDish - March 19, 2002

US universities are learning to live with file swapping among students on campus, despite legal risks and the heavy demands such activities place on computer networks, says Gwendolyn Mariano on CNET "Students are essentially our customers, and we need to try to make them happy," she quotes Russell Taylor, director of academic computing and information systems at Lees-McRae College, in Banner Elk, NC, as saying. "Music and movies are out there to download, so rather than take a hard-and-fast line to block it...we decided it would be best to let it continue, but to limit it down until such a time it does become illegal."

Tolerance of file swapping on campus is partly attributed to the emergence of efficient management tools for network traffic, "which could conceivably be used to harshly limit the practice," says Gwendolyn in 'Schools declare file-swapping truce'. "Companies such as Packeteer and NetReality have been marketing such products to schools for months and claim hundreds of clients."

She goes on that Oregon State said it paid about $35,000 for Packeteer's technology and that the company said it charges between $3,000 and $49,000, continuing, "NetReality's prices are similar, running from about $3,000 to $30,000. To date, NetReality said it has sold 3,000 units."

Lees-McRae College faced similar problems, says Gwendolyn. "Music and film downloads comprised about 85 percent to 90 percent of the college's traffic. Librarians, for instance, couldn't use the online card catalog to look up a book, and students couldn't conduct research using the college's online periodicals database. The college said it installed NetReality's technology last fall, allocating only one third of its T1 line--about 500 kilobytes--to music and film downloads. Although students complained that the technology causes slower download times for file-swapping applications, school officials say they are essentially regulating the traffic, not stopping students from using those applications entirely."

She says the shift in college networking policies highlights a legal gray area for the entertainment industry, which has so far aimed its anti-piracy efforts at developers of file-swapping software such as Napster and StreamCast Networks, the company behind Morpheus.

"The record labels have also pressed action against some individuals, a tactic that among other things led University of Oklahoma campus police to confiscate the computer of a student after a complaint from the Recording Industry Association of America," Gwendolyn states. "Jonathan Lamy, a spokesman for the RIAA, said that for now the group is sticking to a hands-off approach on campuses, allowing individual schools to set their own policies. 'What we do is educate colleges and universities about copyright infringements, but we leave it to each school to decide what specific measures they will take against the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted work over the Internet,' he said."

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