Forget kindergarten - sharing is wrong
By Kelly Marcella and Maggie Wrobel
THE INTERNET: A
HAVEN OF FREE MUSIC AND FREE PORN. Downloading and file
sharing is becoming increasingly popular and risky.
One of the things we're taught in kindergarten is the importance
of sharing. We learn to share our feelings, our snacks and
even our toys.
However, the times for sharing are a-changin' and sharing
certain things - namely computer files - is not only considered
wrong, it is now deemed highly illegal and could result in
The mp3 phenomenon has replaced compact discs as the source
many people have chosen for their music. Of course, this raises
a host of questions ranging from the ethics, legality and morality
behind what music industry officials call "stealing music."
Recently, the Recording Industry Association of America launched
a multitude of civil suits against individuals who share illegally
obtained copyrighted material, hitting home the issues surrounding
the practice of downloading.
While the crackdown on file sharing systems such as Napster
has attempted to make it more difficult for individuals to
obtain free music, other programs have taken flight and replaced
the now-defunct Internet program.
The recent birth of the UWGo file-sharing system earlier this
year attempts to facilitate file sharing specifically for individuals
who live on Western's campus. The creator and administrator
of the UWGo system, who chose to remain anonymous as a result
of civil cases against music file sharers, explains the UWGo
system simply connects computers in a peer-to-peer network
to share data.
"There is nothing inherently illegal with writing software,
distributing a tool such as UWGo or even sharing files," UWGo's
creator explains. "The problem begins when people share copyrighted
materials, however, that is entirely up to the discretion of
individual users. UWGo has no way to moderate, filter or control
the content crossing the network since it is a peer-to-peer
system without central control."
Craig Daley, a co-op student at Western's Information Technology
Services says ITS doesn't support file-sharing programs like
Kazaa. "[The program] generates a lot of network traffic and
slows everything down," he notes.
According to Denis Regnier, manager of technical support for
ITS, if use of file sharing programs slows down the system
or causes resource problems, then it becomes a concern for
The UWGo creator explains the system was born out of the resource
problems that were accumulating within residence networks. "There
seemed to be an obvious need to connect people who live close
together instead of having them use the Internet. Not only
is it faster, it also saves on bandwidth costs for institutions."
Despite these apparent benefits of the UWGo system, copyright
infringement remains an issue of concern.
The RIAA recently posted a statement on its Web site detailing
the definition of copyright infringement and describing the
possible penalties individual users of illegal files could
"The online infringement of copyrighted music can be punished
by up to three years in prison and $250,000 in fines," the
"Of course software can be used to break the law," UWGo's
creator says. "But people are liable for their own actions."
-with files from Lorraine Forster