The IUSB Vision Weblog

The way to crush the middle class is to grind them between the millstones of taxation and inflation. – Vladimir Lenin

Music Piracy Costs Fellow IU Students Thousands

Posted by iusbvision on November 16, 2007

If students have not had a chance to check their IUSB account e-mails lately they may be surprised to find that the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Jeff Jones and Vice Chancellor of Information Technologies Dr. Pat C. Ames sent out an e-mail to all students notifying them of lawsuits by music companies on the illegal use of peer to peer network file sharing services being used on college campuses.

Nineteen of our own Indiana University students have settled suits at $3000 to $4000 for the illegal use of programs such as Limewire and BitTorrent. It is important to note that there are many alternatives that can be used even though these two are the most popular currently in the market. I found this as a good opportunity to let everyone know and understand how these peer to peer clients work and just how privacy doesn’t really exist with your internet activities.

File sharing (or peer to peer) applications such as Limewire and BitTorrent are not very complicated. The applications directly connect to what are known as “seeding” computers, or “host” computers. A torrent file is downloaded to the user’s computer as a re-director to all of the seeders who hold the desired file. Bits and pieces of the file are then downloaded from all of the various seeders and are assembled once the file arrives at its destination, the client.

There is one common denominator here, all of the seeds are being polled for data by only one client, in this case it would be the person running Limewire or BitTorrent. The reason this is important to you, is that it is very easy to trace the route of information downloaded all the way down to the exact machine it was put on as well as the machines it is downloaded from. All computer network cards posses what is known as a MAC address, if you have not heard of one it is an important thing to know. MAC addresses are different than a simple IP address in that they are flashed directly to the network hardware of the computer and it is not easily modified or changed.

If one were to “sniff” network activity and capture the MAC address of certain types of illegal activity, they could file a suit against the owners of that network to release the user who was logged or registered to the computer at the time of its use. They can then target those users with suits, and they are doing just that.

There is no true anonymity when it comes to networking; previously internet service providers (ISPs) protected the internet activities of their clients because of privacy concerns. This is becoming less and less feasible by the day as the music, movie and software industry invest millions to stop the rampant piracy of their products. Also, do not forget, networking history in the realm of computers and data is rarely deleted as well. Surf wisely.

Craig Chamberlin

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