The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) announced the shutdown of file sharing services Grokster and i2hub on Nov. 18.
The RIAA is an organization known for protecting the music industry from illegal online file sharing and music piracy.
The shutdowns are considered by many to be significant steps in preventing music piracy in university Internet networks.
The U.S. Supreme Court case MGM v. Grokster decided that, “not only individuals, but businesses that encourage illegal file sharing can be held accountable for their actions,” said Cary Sherman, president of the RIAA.
Sherman explained that the decision was followed by a string of similar rulings in Korea, Taiwan and Australia, which found Kazaa, a popular file sharing service, to be illegal.
“Contrary to what you might think, [this] means even more options for enjoying music and movies online,” Sherman said. “These developments have given the legitimate online marketplace a tremendous boost – enhancing our ability to invest in new bands and new music.”
Still, according to Joseph Tufano, St. John’s chief information officer of Information Technology, illegal sites are continually growing and students continue to download music illegally.
“Everybody accesses music,” Tufano said. “Everybody looked up songs they were interested in. I don’t think anyone was any different.”
And while the administration recognizes that students will inevitably download illegal files, IT is taking measures to protect students against illegal behavior.
“We try to block all of the illegal sites,” Tufano added, “so that our students aren’t at risk of having access to an illegal site and then getting into trouble. We look at the network traffic and we see where the traffic is going in general, and then we try to block the ones that are known to be illegal.”
The University is made aware of such illegal visits by the RIAA, who, according to Tufano, monitors illegal file sharing sites and reports information to the school. When the University was informed that there were students visiting such sites, IT responded by blocking as many sites as they could.
“It’s understandable,” junior Maria Kishbaugh said. “People need to make a living.”
“I think they have the right to do that,” junior Kevin Phu added. “Artists do make money off their music and when you download you’re just stealing music. But the music industry took too long to realize what a big deal this was, so I think they deserve the loss of revenue.”
Tufano and Walter Kerner, director of network services, insist that legal pay sites are bound to grow in popularity, as consumers shift toward quality over quantity.
“I think as people get tired of the hassle of getting incomplete downloads, of getting virus-ridden downloads, as the price point gets to where it needs to be,” Kerner added, “I think [pay sites] are where they’re going to be.”
Despite the growth of legal file sharing services throughout college campuses, St. John’s has opted not to provide such a service, largely based on student sentiment.
“We wanted to provide a service where students wouldn’t run up huge bills because that’s not really in anyone’s best interest,” Tufano said. “But we did not find a great deal of interest among the students to get that service because there would still be some cost to the students. Over time that could change, and we’ll go back and look at that. There are a lot of other schools doing it.”