Editorial: Copyright violations

Dominic Gutierrez’s internet was turned off last month, after campus copyright officials found his IP address had illegally shared a Justin Bieber song.

Gutierrez lost internet, both in class and at home, because he lives on campus, per the UC Davis policy for copyright infringement.

But there’s a problem. Gutierrez doesn’t have Bieber fever and he never uploaded the song. He also claims he’s never listened to the song … but that’s another issue altogether.

Copyright owners contacted Innovation Access, the on-campus network monitors, with the IP address and violation. Required by law to remove copyright violations, Innovation Access traced the address to Gutierrez and shut off his internet connection.

No questions were asked – they just pulled the plug. To add insult to injury, they sent him an e-mail notification informing him of the change.

It is conceivable that this method successfully punishes guilty parties. We live in a culture that openly utilizes illegal downloading. According to Innovation Access there have been 600 accurate punishments this year. But one student being falsely accused is too many, and Innovation Access, along with Student Judicial Affairs, needs to reevaluate the current method.

To start, Innovation Access does not conduct investigations on its own. It relies on information from a third party that directly benefits from the enforcement and fear mongering of copyright laws. Rather than take the accusations at face value, UC Davis should let alleged downloaders defend themselves. Maybe it was an accident. Maybe it was someone else. Maybe they just didn’t do it.

Having a system in which students are guilty until proven innocent creates an unhealthy relationship between students and their school and puts students at an unreasonable inconvenience.

The internet is no longer a “privilege” or some favor the school gives to its students. It is a vital tool for assigned readings and research, or reaching a professor to ask for help. The university shouldn’t cut off a student’s only means of registering for classes.

Second, students need to start playing along. Whether or not copyright laws are fair or culturally accepted, they do exist and UC Davis is required to enforce them.

If you’re going to torrent, go off campus. Every coffee shop downtown has internet access, and they don’t keep a permanent record and therefore can’t punish you.

Better yet, don’t illegally share music. If you’re anti-legislation, write to your representative and post strong-worded opinions on forums. But don’t put yourself at an unnecessary risk just to get at the man, or Justin Bieber.

Hopefully one day, legislation will allow file sharing. Never say never.

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