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Purdue steps up efforts to halt illegal downloads

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Federal rules aimed at cracking down on illegal downloads are prompting Purdue University to limit students' bandwidth and step up efforts to educate students about the penalties for violating copyrights.

The efforts aren't resonating with some students, who say they'll continue to share electronic data and aren't worried about getting caught.

"Everyone does it, and really there are only a few anywhere who get caught," said recent graduate Teresa Brecht.

The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 wants universities to help change that attitude.

The act requires schools to fight illegal distribution of copyrighted material and educate campus communities about the issue, including offering legal alternatives to downloading. Schools that don't comply with the new rules risk losing their eligibility for federal student aid.

Purdue spokeswoman Jeanne Norberg said the university has been preparing for the new rules since the 2008-2009 academic year.

"We have found that our students respond best when they hear from their peers who have made illegal choices and now are facing costly penalties," she said. "Piracy may seem easy, but the consequences are not."

The university displays posters about piracy and illegal downloading year-round. A university website also offers links to legal alternatives for downloading media content.

Students are warned of the consequences of violating copyright law before they log on to the campus online residential network called ResNet.

Since October 2008, the Recording Industry Association of America has sent 269,609 copyright infringement notices to colleges and universities. Purdue has received 474 copyright-related alerts since January, and students have paid thousands in fines for illegal downloads in years past.

Campus officials also comply with court-issued subpoenas requesting names of students whose computers have been identified as downloading illegal items.

But Purdue isn't likely to police what students download itself. The act gives schools flexibility so long as they use at least one technology-based deterrent, such as products to block illegal file sharing.

Purdue limits students using the university network to 5 gigabytes of data to outside websites per day.

Students say that's still enough to download movies.

"Everyone my age has grown up doing this," junior Ben Parniuk said. "I've been downloading since the fifth grade, and I've never been worried about being caught. I don't see anything changing that for me or anyone else my age."

Steven Worona, director of policy and networking programs for Educause, a higher education tech advocacy group, said there's only so much universities can do.

"The problem campuses have is that commercial network providers are not doing anything to limit the amount of infringement on their networks or educate their customers about copyright law," Worona said. "Every fall, a new cadre of students arrives on campuses who have been engaging in infringing activity since the third grade."

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  • Proper Role of a Univ
    Gee, now the entertainment industry wants univeristies to police for them what they themselves cannot do. Somehow I don't see any reason or role for universities to somehow step in and protect the music and movie industry. They need to be spending their resources continuing to educate their students and building their libraries. Somehow I don't punk rock, and skin flicks having much to do with education.

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