16 Sep Marquette targets illegal downloading
MILWAUKEE — With the new school semester just under way, college students are settling into their routines. Marquette University, however, is hoping that illegal Internet downloading is not one of those routines.
The school is the first university working with the Business Software Alliance, a non-profit consortium of technologies companies including, Microsoft, Apple and Adobe. The BSA’s Define The Line program, already working on spreading information to students at the elementary level about copyright protection, will open a new front in teaching college students about the pitfalls of illegal downloads, whether it’s in terms of viruses, legal consequences or simply the moral and ethical ramifications.
“It’s going to make them aware that certain things that they may do on the Internet could have negative consequences,” said Jim Factor, a computer science professor at Marquette who first made the school aware of the program, thanks to former colleagues in the software business associated with BSA.
When it comes to making students aware, however, they have their work cut out for them. According to a Harris Interactive YouthQuery survey commissioned by the group in 2004, 53% of all college students have downloaded music, with 22% having used the Internet to download copyrighted software.
“It basically found that students today, they don’t see anything unethical about swapping or downloading digital copyrighted files, software, music or movies, without paying for them,” said Debbi Mayster, communications manager for BSA. “Define The Line came to be an opportunity for us to get that message out to students on university and college campuses as well as get the message out to faculty and staff that we have resources available to emphasize to students that there’s the copyright law and talk about É the importance of being a good cyber-citizen and gaining a respect for copyrighted works online.”
Factor echoed the sentiment, noting that a big part of shaping the right attitudes is a generational problem that must be addressed at school. “I think that’s a big part of their education, because their parents more than likely haven’t had experience in the use of the Web for that. So that`s something they may not normally get from home.”
Education is yet another way for copyright holders to maintain some sense of control over their work, in addition to the already-used tool of litigation. In matters of liability, the school itself maintains its own policies on downloading, according to Marquette’s director of support services, Lynn Gunn. While Marquette, like many schools, will end up receiving complaints from music companies and other copyright holders about downloads on its network infrastructure, the school makes a point to address the problem by talking to the students involved.
Sometimes it is inadvertent; the student’s machine has been hijacked by spyware that has undertaken a download without his or her knowledge. Many times, it becomes a matter of educating the violator about what they’ve done wrong and how to get it right. No matter what the cause, however, the school makes a point of getting the student’s machine clear of the offending download and any other copyright violations that might be found.
In the end, Gunn explained, it’s important to police against copyright infringement and to educate the students on a cultural level about it as a matter of social justice and personal responsibility.
“The goal of the program in general is to educate the students so that when they get out of the college world and they go into business, that they will not participate in illegal activities either at their place of employment or at home.”