Illegal downloads drop on campus

Glennis Siegfried

Ruckus gives students legal alternatives to obtaining free music

Thanks to legal alternatives, the number of illegal downloads on campus has dropped.

Last year, Kent State occupied a spot on the Recording Industry Association of America’s list of top 20 schools with illegal downloading activity. It now occupies spot number 118.

Part of this drop can be attributed to the introduction of Ruckus in August 2007, said Tom Beitl, executive director of infrastructure and operations. More information is now available to students, which he said may also have helped.

Ruckus is a program that allows users to download music files and play them from their computer for free. Users can pay a $20 fee to transfer music files to their MP3 players. IPods are incompatible with Ruckus, however.

Beitl said the implementation of Ruckus was part of a trend that other colleges and universities are following. According to Ruckus’s Web site, there are currently 215 schools affiliated with the program.

“It’s a legal alternative to illegal downloading without charging students,” Beitl said.

Since August 2007, there have been nearly four million Ruckus downloads at Kent State.

Mike Kenney, junior integrated language arts major, said he downloads albums from Ruckus, and if he likes it enough, he buys the album from the store.

“I primarily use it as research,” he said. “They also have some rare stuff.”

Junior architecture major Nicole Kaptur, another Ruckus user, said she doesn’t use the program that often.

“It’s not made for a Mac. I use it more often with my PC,” she said, adding that it’s hard to find older music on Ruckus.

“Usually they do have new music right away,” Kaptur said.

Other students have found different methods of legally obtaining their favorite music.

“I don’t use Ruckus because I’m afraid of getting a virus,” said Anne Maltempi, political science and English major. “I just wait until I get a bunch of iTunes gift cards. I have like $45 in them right now.”

Maltempi added that she would rather just pay for the music.

“We want folks to know it’s illegal,” Beitl said of illegal downloading on campus. “We’re trying to provide an alternative.”

Students who are caught downloading on campus will receive a letter upon their first offense. They might have to attend counseling and a training class, and they will be required to remove the downloaded items from their computer. The second offense is treated in a similar fashion. The third time, judicial affairs becomes involved.

The RIAA has new technology now to help detect offenders, and Kenney said some students don’t understand how they can be tracked.

“I know some people who don’t know what an IP address is,” he said.

The RIAA has also turned to prosecuting offenders. If caught, students have the option of settling out of court for about $5,000. Otherwise they can face court and a larger fine.

“It can also open up the university to liability,” Beitl said, adding that he would like to prevent this from happening at Kent State.

“I would like students to do the right thing,” he said. “We’re all adults and responsible for our behavior.”

Contact technology reporter Glennis Siegfried at [email protected].