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ISSUE 117 VOL 10 PUBLISHED 12/5/2003

Download deadline set

By Emelie Heltsley
Staff Writer

Friday, December 5, 2003

Downloading copyrighted information from the Internet is one of today’s hottest ethical issues and St. Olaf students are being warned to get all illegally downloaded material off their computers by the start of Interim. At first, the sharing of copyrighted material was an external problem, but it has recently spread to the St. Olaf network.

Due to an incident in the fall of 2003, the Office of the Dean of Students and IIT (Informational and Instructional Technologies) were forced to look deeper into Stotella, a student-run program that allows St. Olaf students to share information via the St. Olaf network. The college discovered that Stotella is being used to share much more than schoolwork – music, videos and pornography are being shared through this program as well.

Dean of Students Greg Kneser said, "We can’t ignore what’s going on in Stotella when it’s the same thing that’s going on outside St. Olaf." Before this year, the Office of the Dean of Students and IIT were aware of the general purposes behind Stotella. "Internally, we now know what’s going on," said Kneser. "We can’t ignore it anymore."

Kneser emphasized that "there is nothing wrong with Stotella – the problem lies in how it is being used." He compared the use of Stotella to using a stick. "You can use a stick as a cane, as a hook to hang things, or as a weapon to whack people. The stick itself isn’t bad, but what you do with it can be a problem."

Beginning Jan. 1, IIT and the Office of the Dean of Students will pay more attention to activity on Stotella. Those students who share copyrighted information after this grace period will be punished accordingly.

How does St. Olaf know who is downloading songs? The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) inform St. Olaf when a student has downloaded copyrighted material and expect St. Olaf to fix the problem. The Office of the Dean of Students and IIT cannot track Internet usage of each individual student on the hill, but when informed by the RIAA or MPAA, the college must take action.

Usage on Stotella, however, can be monitored because it operates on the St. Olaf network. John Campion, the Student Computing and Network Consultant, ex-plained how files stored on student computers can affect the whole network, and how IIT can tell when material is being shared.

"Excess traffic makes it obvious, especially when it starts to affect other aspects of computing on campus," he said. "When [IIT] tries to set up new computers and those computers get infected with a virus within minutes, it’s pretty obvious that something is going on."

Campion also mentioned that other problems, such as trouble printing or slow researching, often occur because of increased traffic on the network.

The crackdown on sharing copyrighted material was, as Kneser said, "a matter of when, not if." He explained that St. Olaf cannot hold a double standard – the college cannot discourage the use of Kazaa and ignore the activity on Stotella. "This is about what is right, ethical, and moral," said Kneser.

What should students do? "Students need to be responsible for files in their possession," said Campion. Kneser is urging students to get rid of downloaded copyrighted files on their computers.

The Office of the Dean of Students will send a letter out to students before the end of the semester, explaining the crackdown in more detail. Until then, students are advised to stop downloading and start deleting.

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