IT department continues to crack down on copyright violations

GVL / Dylan McIntyre. Tuesday, Oct. 3rd, 2017. Cody Chinn, IT worker at Mary Idema Pew waiting to help studetnts with questions and software issues.

GVL / Dylan McIntyre. Tuesday, Oct. 3rd, 2017. Cody Chinn, IT worker at Mary Idema Pew waiting to help studetnts with questions and software issues.

Theresa Mueller

Upon acceptance to Grand Valley State University, every student is given a GVSU email account and access to the GVSU network. With this access come many policies that students must uphold, including conformity to the GVSU copyright policy.  

GVSU’s Information Technology department sent out a mass email Tuesday, Sept. 26, to all currently enrolled students regarding the copyright laws and policies at GVSU. 

On average, about four students per week violate copyright laws using a GVSU network. The IT department sees the cases of copyright violation increase slightly every year, but the email was part of the annual effort to remind students what they are and are not entitled to do.

“The challenge is finding the best place to notify students,” said Sue Korzinek, associate vice president and chief information officer for IT.

The timing is strategic since at the beginning of the semester students are usually bombarded with emails that usually find their way to the “trash” without even being read. Korzinek said IT sends the notification out in late September in hopes that students will actually open the email and take it seriously and not disregard it. 

The email states, “It has always been against the law to copy someone else’s work without permission, and downloading songs, movies or software from the internet for personal use without permission and/or without paying the owner is considered theft.” 

The recording, software and movie industries are constantly monitoring various networks, including GVSU networks, to watch out for illegal activity pertaining to impermissible downloads.

As other companies monitor the activity of GVSU networks, the IT department is notified if any copyright laws have been violated on a GVSU network. 

“We get notifications because they have a ‘@gvsu’ assigned to them,” Korzinek said.

Notifications from other companies include the time of day, the Internet Protocol (IP) address and what the user downloaded illegally. Then, IT searches network logs to find out who had the connection at the specified time of day.

“Once (IT) absolutely determines the user, we lock the student out of their account and notify them that they violated copyright,” said John Klein, associate director of academic services for the IT department. “Then, (the user) gets a notification letting them know they’ve been locked out and need to contact HelpDesk.” 

As students are directed to the HelpDesk for a first offense, they are required to fill out paperwork acknowledging the copyright policy and confirming they will not violate in the future. If students commit a second offense, they are directed to the dean of students. A third offense involves the GVSU judiciary.

Since 2001, there have been thousands of complaints about GVSU copyright violations, but Klein recalls only one or two students’ violations reaching the campus judiciary.

“Some students have gone to the dean of students, but usually the first offense takes care of it,” Korzinek said.

In correlation with copyright violations is the sharing of accounts. For a student enrolled at GVSU, it is against campus policy to share account information. These actions can lead to contention with situations of copyright violation when the account owner is not the offender but the student with whom they shared their account information is.

In the end, the student responsible for the violation is whoever owned the account. 

“Ultimately, they’re the ones responsible for (the violation),” Korzinek said. “We wouldn’t have any other choice but to work with that student, whether they did it or not. If the logs prove it, we have the electronic footprint, so it’s hard to negate.” 

The main offenses reported to the GVSU IT department include illegal downloading of music or movies, usually through the use of a BitTorrent application (a medium for large file transfers). Considering the necessary steps for these downloads, the IT department is certain these offenses of copyright are intentional. 

IT offers more information regarding copyright policies on their department page, There are multiple legal entertainment resources available, and the IT department highly encourages students to choose this route.