On Campus

Missouri college fights music downloading with copyright quiz

A tech-savvy university near the Missouri Ozarks is resorting to an old standby to reduce illegal music downloads by students: the pop quiz.Missouri University of Science and Technology now requires students to ace a six-question quiz on digital copyright law to get six hours of access to peer-to-peer software they can use to share music and movies online.

The quiz has cut copyright complaints on campus from recording industry to eight this academic year, down from 200 in 2006-07, said Tim Doty, a campus systems security analyst.

“We’re still allowing peer-to-peer access,” Doty said, “but in a controlled fashion. We’re providing them the information to make an informed decision.”

Missouri S&T students who violate copyright law may lose their Internet privileges or face fines, community service, extra research assignments or suspension from classes.

Violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act also can draw lawsuits by the recording industry, which often cost several thousand dollars to settle. Universities that fail to stop repeat offenders can face liability too.

Several schools have addressed the problem by eliminating access to peer-to-peer software, even though it is used by academic researchers to share data. Most schools that continue to allow access have toughened penalties for piracy, including completing tests like Missouri S&T’s or watching an anti-piracy DVD provided by the recording industry. The Missouri school appears to be the only U.S. campus that requires a test in advance, Doty said.

At Stanford, students who don’t remove illegal downloads from their computers must pay $100 to reconnect to the Internet once they’re found out. A second offence boosts the reconnection fee to $500.

Jonathan Lamy, a Recording Industry Association of America spokesman, applauded schools’ efforts to teach students about copyright law.

“What we’ve found to be the most effective is a comprehensive approach that employs a combination of tools: innovative educational programs, legal ways to enjoy music and technological tools that prevent the misuse of campus networks in the first place.”

-with a report from CP 

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.