ATHENS, Ohio (Feb. 21, 2007) -- Ohio University has an exceptionally good record when it comes to keeping music and other downloading legal. The facts stand in contrast to a finding the Associated Press reported that lists Ohio University among the top five universities in number of Recording Industry Association of America notices for suspected downloads since last fall.
Ohio University has established policies and procedures regarding ethical use of the Internet, including downloading. The university aggressively investigates notices it receives claiming copyright infringement and warns any student whose computer address is flagged for the activity. If a student repeats the behavior, the university will cut off access to Internet services and not restore service until the student has been educated about the ethics and consequences of unauthorized downloads.
"We have no students who have persisted once they were warned," Dean of Students Terry Hogan said.
"The number of copyright complaints we have received is not a sign that pirating is high on our campus compared with other institutions," interim Chief Information Officer Shawn Ostermann said.
There are two reasons. First, Ohio University purposely maintains an open, accessible network so students have full access to information.
"We believe that ensures a quality learning and teaching environment," Ostermann said. "Sharing information is what you are supposed to do at a university."
The barriers that some higher education institutions have on their networks prevent the RIAA from being able to see their students' downloading activity.
"It may be that we have received more complaints because our activities are more transparent," Ostermann said.
The second reason that notices may be high is the sheer number of users at Ohio University, which houses more students than most universities nationwide. Also, at any given time some 15,000 computers are connected to the Ohio University network.
The university proactively promotes high standards where Internet behavior is concerned. The university orients all students to its Internet use policies. All students are notified once each quarter that illegal downloading is a violation of the university policy.
Violation of the policy is considered an "A" level violation of the Student Code of Conduct, the most serious level, which can result in suspension or expulsion from the university.
To help deter downloading, Ohio University offers a legal alternative, Cdigix, with access to more than 2 million music downloads at no cost to Ohio University students.
Ohio University considers its network a learning tool, first and foremost. It places controls on its system to grant top priority to academic uses of the Internet, while still allowing other activities, such as gaming and file sharing. And even those uses have scholarly applications.
"File sharing, for instance, can allow a researcher from Ohio University to share notes with a researcher overseas," Ostermann said.
Finally, Ostermann cautions, not all notices a university receives are legitimate.
"The complaints Ohio University receives include duplicates, errors and misdirected notices," Josh Thomas, interim chief information security officer, said.
"The RIAA has not contacted us to discuss these complaints, nor have they offered their assistance," he added.
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