Two years after Yale banned the use of Napster, the University has taken steps to discourage student use of new file-sharing programs.
Information Technology Service Director Philip Long said the University has already implemented measures to limit and trace students’ use of Kazaa, a popular file-sharing program used to download music and movies. Yale does not plan to ban Kazaa completely, Long said.
To comply with a 1998 law aimed at combating online piracy, Yale hired an agent to identify illicit file sharing, University officials said. The agent tracks students’ computers that are used to share copyrighted material, something required by the Digital Millenium Copyright Act passed in 1998.
The University has also restricted the speed at which Yale network users can connect to Kazaa, Long said.
Most computers at Yale connect to the Yale network at 105 megabytes per second. But Long said the University has limited the bandwidth for Kazaa and other music file-sharing programs to 50 kilobytes per second — 200 times slower than the regular network.
Long said “a couple” of cases of music piracy had been reported each month.
Most of the copyright violations brought to the University’s attention have not been individual infractions but student computers serving as “songbanks,” from which other users can download files, Long said.
Long said the University chose not to ban Kazaa because the program does not entirely violate copyright law.
“It’s almost always the case that there are unintended consequences,” Long said. “[Banning Kazaa] assumes everything going on is illegal.”
University leaders banned Napster, a free Internet-based file-sharing program, in 2000. Before the ban, Metallica had sued Yale over copyright infringement but the band dropped Yale from the lawsuit after the University banned Napster on campus.
Unlike Napster, Kazaa has not been ruled illegal under United States law because the service is based in the Netherlands and the program differs from previous file-sharing programs.
Many students said Kazaa has become a popular and highly used method of downloading music and videos on campus.
“Everyone on our floor uses it,” said a freshman who did not wish to be quoted by name.
Two computing assistants, who also declined to give their names, called file sharing by students “common.”
Long said that banning file sharing would “substitute our judgment for yours.”
David Sorkin, a professor at John Marshall Law School in Chicago, said Internet law is unclear as to whether Yale could be at risk of another lawsuit.
“The legal system is not terribly well-equipped to deal with issues of technology,” Sorkin said. “If [the record companies] view Yale as a high enough profile and want to make an example out of it, they might go after Yale.”