Volume 93, Issue 53

Friday, December 3, 1999


Editorial Board 1999-2000


Editorial cartoon


Up until recently, downloading music from the World Wide Web with Western's internet service provider was as easy as M-P-3.

But once the Canadian Recording Industry Association and Western's Information Technology Services began working together, music pirates have been left shipwrecked.

ITS said they recently received a formal complaint from the CRIA concerning students using Western's internet services to access and distribute music files called MP3s. In response, ITS filtered out the use of "Napster," a program which enables students to download these files easier and faster.

ITS cited the program's monopolization of network system resources as the main reason for banning the popular MP3 utility. Those still online have access to every computer with the Napster application downloaded on it. This results in a congestion of internet services.

Students in residence, as well as those off-campus who access Western's internet service provider, are outraged by no longer being able to download their favourite tunes for free with the Napster utility. But what exactly are they complaining about?

The fact that the university would like to use it's resources for academic purposes and avoid having students bog down the system with non-academic pursuits is a solid concern, considering the institution and its purpose.

Then, there's also a little matter of legality. Duplicating copyrighted material and then transferring it, over the internet or otherwise, without permission of the owner or artist, is illegal. There's absolutely no debating that fact.

Students are basically complaining that they are having restrictions placed upon their illegal activity. In the real world, these things are called laws and breaking them results in punishment. Apparently, these things are not considered to be standards in the "university world."

ITS, the university and CRIA are all acting within their own rights and are only looking to uphold the law. This is not an issue of censorship or restricting freedom, it is a question of law.

No matter where you stand on the MP3 debate which, by the way, threatens to destroy the entire system of record labels, it must be acknowledged that the law restricts distribution and use of illegally copied material.

The university is free to govern their resources as they see fit – they even require that all students in residence sign a contract, ensuring they will not take part in illegal activities. There is, therefore, no basis for an argument.

Students will always find alternative ways of obtaining MP3s and because of this, ITS's move is merely a band-aid solution. But until computer hackers finds a way around it – and it looks like they already have – Western will be hindering the flow of MP3s on campus, with the law on their side.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999