Online Piracy at Colorado State

Having a song stuck in your head and not knowing the name of it, can drive you mad. Just one line plays in your brain over, and over, and over.

Desperate to find the name of the song, you scour through Google searches as if your life depends on it. Finally, you found your musical gem, hidden in the depths of your iTunes store.

There it is, your lyrical obsession that costs $1.20 to download. Debating between a good song and a large soda at lunch leaves you considering the unspeakable — pirating.

Before you jump onto a plethora of illegal websites available, consider the fact that using the Internet service provided by dorms and student apartments can come with some very serious consequences.

From music, to movies, to software, there is often a temptation to find the products and entertainment students need at a more affordable (if not free) cost. Three students at Colorado State University know these consequences all too well.

The Musical Mistake

Keeton Ellis, business sophomore, and his roommate Luke Huskey, an
undeclared sophomore, downloaded music, T.V. shows and movies on and off for several years in high school utilizing several different pirating software.

When they first started pirating, they chose Limewire: a common peer-to-peer sharing program until it was disabled in 2011. Ellis and Huskey also utilized torrenting, or the breaking up of one file into many smaller files, to download the files faster.

Huskey and Ellis’ years of pirating did not go without consequence. The pair was caught while they were together at the Huskey’s parent’s house in Montrose, Colo.

They received a letter from their web host, which had received a letter from Warner Brothers studio, who had discovered their illegal behavior. Huskey found the event to be a sobering one for a couple of 18-year-olds.

“It was my house, my internet connection,” Huskey said. “Up until that point it was just whatever, no body could catch us.”

Through torrenting, Ellis managed to download over a terabyte of media the first semester of his freshman year at Colorado State University.

“We actually calculated it one time, it was like $32,000 (worth of media),” Ellis said.

The pair would share their files, because they said it was faster to download the files from each other’s computers than to go through the process of downloading all over again.

A study in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology said that 15-30 million Americans between the age of 18 and 25 have used peer-to-peer file sharing like BitTorrent or The Pirate Bay.

Ashwin Naveen, past president and co-founder of BitTorrent, said the program he helped create, was never intended to be used as a pirating platform.

“BitTorrent was not designed for that specific purpose, but it was more palatable than other peer-to-peer site,” Naveen said. “As the payload of streaming downloads continued to grow, BitTorrent was an
elegant alternative. The cost of bandwidth was too high and it solved a real problem.”

After Limewire shut down, as poor freshmen, Huskey and Ellis’ pirating days were short lived after they arrived at CSU. Huskey decided to stop pirating completely and Ellis said he was caught for pirating in the dorms twice before Limewire officially shut down.

“At the end of first semester I was blocked from accessing housing and dining services Internet,” Ellis said. “To get reinstated, I had to take my laptop to the technology desk in the Morgan Library.”

Ellis was caught again immediately after he returned to the dorms post winter break. The Morgan Library technology technician, Kevin Mihbilch, said this is a common occurrence for students returning from winter break.

“Generally the most computers (with pirated content) come in after a break,” Mihbilch, a junior electrical engineering major, said. “They leave all their torrent clients running, come back to school, forget that they are running and plug them into the housing network.”

Since December 2011, Mihbilch said 21 students came in to have their computers cleared to get back on the housing and dining network.

According to Mihbilch, for each student’s first offense, they must bring in their computer to have their torrenting software and the content that was caught removed. They then have to pay a $45 fee before they receive reinstatement to the housing and dining network. A second offense is the same, but comes with a $100 fee to pay and a third offense removes the student from the housing and dining network indefinitely.

Chris Fortin, a sophomore landscape architect major, experienced a first offense penalty his freshman year while living in the Durward residence hall.

“I was asking my friend about downloading a torrent for a computer game,” Fortin said. “I asked if he got in trouble at his school in California and he said he did it all the time.”

Fortin downloaded a torrent for the game “Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings”. The very next day, when Fortin tried to log into the dorm Internet he received the infamous error message.

A week before break, Fortin took his laptop to the library to be fixed, but there was quite a wait and he and was given a three day waiting period. Fortin decided to hold off on the fix until after he returned from break.

“I took it to the library after I got back from break, and when they gave it back, everything I had ever downloaded was gone,” Fortin said. “I went from like two thousand songs to about twenty five.”

As a part of this process, the student has an opportunity to go into the Student Resolution and Conduct Services office to discuss the situation with a University Hearing Officer.

Craig Chesson, assistant dean of students and director of Conflict Resolution and Student Conduct Services, said that being fined is not the biggest problem student piraters need to worry about.

“Students who are illegally downloading music or movies are at risk of not only putting their education in jeopardy, but also may face legal consequences,” Chesson said.

Pirating on campus is monitored closely for the housing and dining
network, as well as campus’ main network, to avoid liability.

“What we do as a part of the agreement with the pirating and movie industry, is we take care of it in-house to avoid suing the student over what happened,” Mihbilch said. “It is protecting us and them from liability.”

Even though students may be looked after by the university, Chesson explained that they are not protected from lawsuit when they
are pirating.

“The music and movie industry have made it very clear they will
pursue legal charges against students,” Chesson said. “It is not worth the time or energy to illegally download music or movies. There are websites on the internet that allow people to download music and movies
appropriately.”

Knock it Off

Music and movies are not the only media that may not be worth illegally downloading. Software is very expensive and commonly pirated even though the choice to use free and legal software is readily available. Consider programs like the Linux operating system, Open Office, a free alternative to Microsoft Office, or Picasa and Photoscape photo editing software.

As prevalent as illegal downloading seems to be in the United States, most offenders do not come from the U.S. According to the Business Software Alliance. Forty-two percent of PC software is pirated worldwide. Georgia and Zimbabwe are the worst offenders, with 90% of software downloaded illegally. In comparison, the U.S. totals 20% of PC pirated software.

With all of the free off brand software offered online, why is there any software piracy at all in the U.S?

Increasingly, students at CSU are required to use expensive name brand software for their classes that they cannot afford on their own.

Sophomore business major Nikki Radtke, said that she only needs programs such as Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Word for her everyday school work.

Even using a free off brand version of software like the Microsoft Office Suite is not an option for Radtke, because they do not have a lot of the same unseen features. In addition, most professional businesses use name brand software, which makes knowledge of that software a crucial skill in many fields.

A high price tag is a large contributing factor for students who choose to pirate. CSU recognizes this, and works to offer alternatives for students.

Business majors like Radtke, are offered one free copy of Microsoft Office during their time at CSU. That offer alone was enough for Radtke, who says she does not pirate her computer programs.

“It’s just more dependable.” Radtke said.

For those who are not offered free copies of software, CSU owns licenses for most software programs, allowing for the use of that software on school computers.

Sophomore Chemistry major Geordan Brichey, does his best to take advantage of school resources by using computer labs for his chemistry and physics lab work.

However, he explained that finding time to work in labs could be difficult for busy students.

“I’ve experienced times when labs aren’t open, even though they are supposed to be, because there was no one to watch the lab.” Brichey said.

Even though scheduling can be frustrating, and some of the software can be out of date, Brichey still appreciates that there are labs with the computer programs he needs available to him on the CSU campus.

“They are pretty useful and they still get the job done,” Brichey said.

Story compiled by Laura Esposito