A Civic Project story
By Caleb Murphy
INDIANA — Amanda C. Wade, 20, a sophomore economics major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, admits to being a pirate.
“I play music on my computer every day that was downloaded illegally,” she wrote in an April 25 email interview.
She has no credit card or PayPal account, she said. So she uses illegal methods to get music for free – for example, by using file converters and media players that go between multiple computers.
“I would feel bad charging, essentially, my parents for music purchases that I could easily get illegally,” she continued in the email interview. “And not cost them more money on top of books and tuition and groceries.
Wade is among the nearly two-thirds of IUP students who said in responses to an April 18 email survey that they illegally download copyrighted music and other media, as defined by U.S. copyright law. Nearly one-third of respondents said they download digital media illegally “multiple times a week.”
Illegal downloading of music is widespread on the IUP campus, said Zachary J. Stiegler, Ph.D., communications media professor at IUP and the faculty adviser for WIUP-FM.
“I would assume that the vast majority of students engage in some level of music piracy,” Stiegler said in a March 26 interview in his office.
No IUP department polices music piracy. But according to William S. “Bill” Balint, the campus’ chief information officer in the Information Technology Department, the university monitors its computer networks in two ways:
- It watches the volume of activity on IUP networks. If the network gets sluggish, the department looks into the problem.
- It receives notices alleging violations of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Most complaints that the department receives come from the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America.
Rarely do students tattle on each other about illegal music or video downloading and sharing, Balint said.
“Typically, you’re talking an RIAA take-down-notice scenario,” Balint said in an April 4 interview in his office.
If a student is suspected of illegally using music on an IUP network, the university will disable the student’s network access, according to IUP’s File Sharing FAQ webpage. To regain access, the student must sign a promise not to share files illegally on an IUP network and pay a $30 fine. The student also could face university judicial sanctions.
In 2009, the department received 190 notices of DMCA copyright violations, according to the department’s records. In 2012, the department received 32, an 83 percent drop. (See sidebar, below.)
Pundits attribute the precipitous decline to a variety of reasons ranging from technology to policy. Balint attributed the decline to improvements in tools and security procedures that can match sophisticated copyright violators.
“There was a time in the original Napster days where it was a complete free-for-all,” he said.
But his department is not trying to police IUP networks, Balint said.
“Our job is not to be the Big Brother of piracy,” he said.
THAT JOB belongs to the RIAA. In 2007, the music-industry association brought a nationally reported lawsuit against a student who it said committed music piracy.
At the time of the alleged offense, Tenenbaum was an undergraduate at Goucher College. He has since earned a Ph.D. from Boston University. The case started with Tenenbaum “defending my actions as a teenager,” he said in a May 22, 2012, interview with Southern California Public Radio.
The corporations accused Tenenbaum of illegally downloading and sharing thousands of songs from 1999 to at least 2007, according to documents from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.
This is a common story for the RIAA. It has sued thousands of university students for alleged illegal file-sharing and downloading. Between January 2004 and October 2007, RIAA companies filed at least 30,000 lawsuits, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
In 2007, IUP received four subpoenas, according to the university.
However, most of the RIAA lawsuits were defaulted or settled out of court, sometimes for as little as $3,000 and as much as $11,000, according to the EFF.
AT IUP, Wade isn’t fazed by the potential for such penalties.
“Of course I’m not afraid of getting caught!” Wade said in the interview. “If anyone was going to be caught and made an example of, I would expect it to be the webmasters of those servers, the ones who get advertising revenue and process thousands of songs a day.”
To date, Wade guessed, she’s downloaded hundreds of songs on her laptop.
“Maybe 1,000,” she said. “Not more than 10,000.”
However, Wade added, she downloads only “big-name artists” on “big-name labels.”
Caleb Murphy, a journalism major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, graduated in May. He is from Indiana, Pa.
Sidebar: Qualtrics survey stats
On April 18, a five-question survey of digital music and video piracy was emailed to a 1,125-student sample of students enrolled at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. The survey was distributed using Qualtrics, a software program administered by the IUP Applied Research Lab.
Responses totaled 67 — a response rate of 6 percent. The margin of error for the survey results is reported to be plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.
The survey was conducted as part of the Civic Project in the News Reporting class in the IUP Department of Journalism.
Sidebar: The Qualtrics survey questionnaire
Following is the text of a five-question survey on copyright law violations that was emailed on April 18 to a sample of 1,125 students enrolled at Indiana University of Pennsylvania:
Caleb Murphy, a journalism student at IUP, is investigating the illegal use of music on the IUP campus. This investigation is for a reporting project for the News Reporting class taught by IUP journalism professor David Loomis, Ph.D. [ firstname.lastname@example.org ] This anonymous survey is being conducted for the project. Aggregated response data may be published in the award-winning online newspaper The HawkEye, published by Dr. Loomis in the IUP Journalism Department. Your name or identity will not be revealed. However, if you would be willing to be interviewed about this issue by the reporter, Mr. Murphy, please provide your name and email address in response to the last question of this six-question survey.
This survey is about copyright. According to U.S. copyright law, a person is NOT allowed to reproduce, distribute, display or perform a piece of music if:
- the work is in commercial use,
- it can be obtained for a “reasonable price,” or
- the person is not permitted by the copyright owner.
Based on this description of copyright law provided by the U.S. Library of Congress Copyright Office, please answer the following questions by choosing the answer that most accurately reflects your understanding and experience:
1. Have you ever reproduced, distributed, displayed, or performed music in violation of the three items listed above (i.e. copyright infringement)?
2. If yes, about how often?
a. Multiple times a week
b. Once a week
c. Once a month
d. Once every six months
e. Once a year
f. Less than once a year
3. Have you ever been charged with music copyright infringement?
4. Have you ever been punished by any authorities for music copyright infringement?
5. If yes, what authorities?
a. Music industry representatives
b. Campus administrators
c. Government agents
If you are willing to be interviewed by reporter Caleb Murphy for this investigative news story, please provide your name and email address:
Sidebar: IUP piracy trends
Following are the most recent data on the number of violation notices received from music- and film-industry associations of suspected violations of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The notices were received by the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Information Technology Department. (LINK: http://www.iup.edu/itsupportcenter/)
Source: IUP Information Technology Department
Sidebar: For more information:
For more information or to get involved in this issue, contact the following sources for this story:
Information Technology Department
William S. Balint
Chief information officer
Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Delaney Hall, Suite G35
950 Grant Street
Indiana, Pa. 15705
Zachary J. Stiegler, Ph.D.
Communications Media Department
121-B Stouffer Hall
Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Indiana, Pa. 15705
Phone: (724) 357-2492
Recording Industry Association of America
1025 F St. N.W., 10th Floor
Washington, D.C. 20004