Internet policing is on the rise

Chris Chan

Virtually all Lawrentians use the Internet in some capacity. Whether the purpose is academic, recreational, or a combination of both, the Internet has become an integral part of life on campus. Recently, Internet usage has come under scrutiny by many corporations and copyright holders. A growing problem on college campuses throughout the nation is related to the downloading of movies off of the Internet. Not only can such downloads violate copyright infringement, but file sharing can also cause damage to university computer systems.

A recent Chronicle of Higher Education article that dealt with this issue explained one company’s attempt to curtail usage at college campuses. In his article, Scott Carlson explained that MediaForce, an investigative agency supported by filmmakers that seeks out cases of illegal downloads, “has been patrolling the Internet and flooding some colleges and universities with cease-and-desist requests–some of them apparently justified.” Popular films such as The Lord of the Rings and Spider-Man have been targeted in the past months.

Since college students are one of the most likely segments of the population to download copyrighted movies, MediaForce has paid special attention to downloading activities at universities. Carlson elaborated on the process of how MediaForce alerts colleges to infringements, saying, “As the copyright act requires, they include a statement about the rights of the copyright holder, the name of the offending file, and details about both the time the file was found and its location.”

Several colleges have expressed displeasure with the way MediaForce has contacted them, saying that the letters are missing a digital signature, or that MediaForce’s demands are excessive. One example was a request to Cornell University, suggesting that Cornell “terminate any and all accounts that [the student] has through you.”

Robert Lowe, Lawrence’s network manager, discussed Lawrence’s response to this growing problem. He cited the following LUCC regulation: “Students may not take any action which would impair the operation of any computer facility or which would destroy or alter equipment configurations, software applications, or electronic data.”

Lowe pointed out that Lawrence would be ready to “take actions to protect the integrity and usability of the network, including the university’s Internet connection.

“Since access to Internet resources is of primary concern to many in the Lawrence community, it is important to realize that our Internet connection is limited in capacity, and that the effects of abuse by one or two individuals can be immediately felt by all other users.”

When asked if Lawrence monitors student downloads, Lowe replied, “We do not track what materials are viewed or downloaded; we may see it if it is stored on University-owned computers.