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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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What’s Your Major? Piracy?

The average college student keeps up with the newest music and movies, frequently filling his or her MP3 player and laptop with new material. Programs like Limewire, Shakespeare, and DC++ have become the dominant source of media for college students across the country. This phenomenon has not gone unnoticed by the media industry.

The only obstacle that stands in the way of downloading endless amounts of songs and movies is the small fee that accompanies every transfer. File sharing programs allow for net users to download music and movies from other users for no charge.

Joel Tenenbaum, a 25-year-old graduate student at Boston University, downloaded and shared 31 songs from a peer-to-peer file-sharing program in 2003. That same year, Tenenbaum received a notice from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), fining him $3,500 for the illegally downloaded music. Unable to pay the fine, Tenenbaum was taken to court in 2007, and sued for more than one million dollars.

‘Joel chose to stand his ground,’ reads the mission statement from joelfightsback.com. ‘It’s about defending the average Davids against the corporate Goliath.’

On July 31, 2009, a judge found the defendant guilty of copyright infringement. Tenenbaum is ordered to pay the RIAA $675,000, and will be forced to declare bankruptcy, if the verdict withstands an appeal.

According to a study done by the Institute for Policy Innovation, ‘global music piracy causes $12.5 billion of economic losses every year, 71,060 U.S. jobs lost, and a loss of $2.7 billion in workers’ earnings.’ These numbers are advertised on the ‘Piracy: Online and on the Street’ page of the RIAA website.

Doug Gale, president of Information Technology Associates, disagrees with the claim, and points the finger of blame at the recording industry. The RIAA has ‘made extensive use of erroneous figures,’ says Gale in a press release, ‘to promote legislation that would transfer the responsibility-and cost-of preventing student piracy to colleges and universities.’

The RIAA regularly sends letters to universities, charging students with illegal piracy and file sharing. The letters ask for $3,000 to $5,000 from each student to avoid a lawsuit. An average college student ,who cannot afford an iTunes song for $0.99 on credit, would hardly be able to take care of a $3,000 grievance fee.

The College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007, which is yet to be passed, will have colleges and universities installing filtering mechanisms on their campus networks, in order to stop peer-to-peer file sharing. Already, the Limewire program is banned from the web servers of several college campuses, including Stony Brook University.

With the world economy faltering and plunging into debt with every passing day, companies as well as users are tightening their belts and trying to save as much money as they can. College students save the $0.99 that it takes to buy a song by downloading music off of programs like Shakespeare and DC ++. Recording companies respond in turn through legal action.

Despite the growing number of lawsuits, the average number of people using file-sharing programs and networks has soared over the past few years. From 2003 to 2005, the number of people illegally downloading music in the United States has jumped from 3.5 million to 6.5 million, according to a study done by BigChampagne Media Measurement.

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