Bounty-hunters from L.A. bug UCSD music pirates

Hundreds of cease-and-desist notices charge unauthorized content distribution

Taylor Swift would approve
  • Taylor Swift would approve
  • photo by Eva Rinaldi/Wikipedia (cropped)

Illegal file-sharing, long a problem at UCSD, is still going on, subjecting students and faculty to big-dollar jeopardy.

So says an August 18 campus warning posted online by the school's director of academic computing and media services, Jeff Henry.

"If you are trying to get songs, movies, anime, software, or other copyrighted content for free using peer-to-peer software, such as uTorrent, Popcorn Time, FrostWire, Transmission, or Vuze, BEWARE: the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including peer-to-peer file sharing, is illegal and may put you at risk for civil and criminal liabilities," says Henry's alert.

Hundreds of copyright violations

"Copyright agencies continue to send UC San Diego hundreds of cease and desist notices regarding the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted content, mostly through peer-to-peer programs such as Bit Torrent."

Adds the warning: "Each of these notices carries the potential for a lawsuit and penalties in the thousands of dollars."

According to the post, "Copyright agencies actively monitor activity from all public UC San Diego networks, including UCSD-PROTECTED, ResNet, UCSD-GUEST, Eduroam, and the VPN."

In addition to risking the wrath of copyright owners, "students who receive a notice have their devices blocked temporarily and must attend a presentation on file sharing and copyright law."

Repeat student violators can expect fines between $150 and $300, with sanctions for faculty and staff "determined by their department," according to Henry’s notice.

$150,000 in fines for each student

Policing of copyright infringement has become a growing business nationally.

A Santa Monica–based outfit called Rightscorp, used by Taylor Swift and other pop stars, emails student violators with a warning that they face $150,000 fines, according to a March report by USA Today about internet abuse at New York's Columbia University.

“We fulfill our responsibility by taking appropriate action when we receive an infringement notice," Columbia spokesman Robert Hornsby told the paper.

Last November, Ohio State University's student newspaper, the Lantern, revealed that the school's wireless internet service had been widely abused by student pirates.

“I know two people who were caught and accused of pirating," an unnamed student told the paper. "One was warned by OSU Wireless that their activity had been detected. The other is off campus and is in an initial legal battle with the content owner."

Rightscorp's most recent quarterly report, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission August 14, explains that "In return for the right to pursue copyright infringers, we pay the copyright holders a percentage of the revenue collected based on agreements with them entered prior to our notices being sent to infringers."

The company's disclosure says that "For the three months ended June 30, 2015, we paid $116,908 to copyright holders, or approximately 50% of collected revenues. For the three months ended June 30, 2014, we paid $125,740 to copyright holders, also approximately 50% of revenues."

The firm's legal bills, according to the document, "totaled $579,780 for the three months ended June 30, 2015, compared to $122,190 for the three months ended June 30, 2014, related to certain legal actions taken against the Company."

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