University Promises To Report File Sharers To Police, Tells Students They Can Spend 5 Years In Jail

from the this-is-what-we-teach-people? dept

Remember a few years back when the entertainment industry used totally bogus stats (which they later admitted were bogus) to get Congress to pass new laws requiring universities to become copyright cops? While many universities have been struggling under the economic burdens of this law, apparently one university, Valdosta State University, in Georgia, has embraced the new law with gusto, not only implementing a new system, but promising to turn those caught over to the police (see update below), and warning them that they face five years in jail, as well as fines. Of course, it seems rather doubtful that those caught sharing a file would be guilty of criminal copyright infringement, so I can’t imagine the local police will even know what to do with the information it’s being given. But it’s rather unfortunate that the University has decided to become a tool of entertainment industry propaganda, rather than actually choosing to understand the real issues at stake. Update: The University and the school paper have since both contacted TorrentFreak to let them know that the reporter got the story wrong, misunderstanding a basic copyright warning, leading to the false report — so that students will not, in fact, be reported to the police.

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: valdosta state university

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “University Promises To Report File Sharers To Police, Tells Students They Can Spend 5 Years In Jail”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Steve R. (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Surveillance Run Amok

I was having difficulty making the analogy where public institutions are becoming a revenue collection toll-booth for private entities. My daughters have received, on official university stationary, suggestions that we buy the products offered by this or that “exclusive” company. The letters of course were phrased in such a manner that we would be bad parents if we did not buy. Soon it will probably be included in the tuition bill and a violation of some law if we don’t pay.

Coincidentally, Mike posted a picture illustrating and making fun of the concept of how public facilities are being denigrated: When The RIAA Is The ‘Standard’ For Evil. In that picture GM has licensed the use of an interstate highway solely for GM cars!!!!

CommonSense (profile) says:

What is the fastest way to get students to stop attending your college?

Did I get it right? Oh wait, this isn’t a Jeopardy type answer searching for the proper question?? No one could really be so stupid as to tell potential paying customers that if they pay to go that school, and behave like everyone else their age, they will be sent to jail, and still expect them to become customers, could they???

Jay says:

*From Atlanta*

Valdosta is pretty small compared to its other neighbors around it. (Pop; 45,000+)

So it should come as no surprise that the University would do something so backwards. Personally, I wouldn’t go there if they PAID me. After having friends there, telling me how the people really are belligerent when it comes to technology or social networking (small town mentality) I’d rather not give that place the time of day.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yeah, why can’t they just let me break the law and leave me alone?

No one said that.

Why do people keep trying to get me to stop breaking the law?

No one said that.

By the way, I think everything should be free. Go make me a sandwich and bring it to me now.

No one said anything remotely like that.

Please, if you’re going to try to challenge basic points, at least sound a *little* intelligent.

Karl (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Please, if you’re going to try to challenge basic points, at least sound a *little* intelligent.

You expect too much from industry trolls.

If this is the same “make me a sandwich” guy, you’ll recall that he did actually come on here and make some arguments. They weren’t good arguments, so he was proved wrong by a bunch of people.

So now, rather than state anything that could actually be debated, he just maligns and insults people. That’s what happens when you don’t let facts get in the way of blind faith.

MikeLinPA (profile) says:

Re: Not exactly the point, (PS: Sandwich at end.)

It isn’t that everything should be free, or that no one should pay for what they consume. The point is that it shouldn’t be any part of the college’s job to monitor local computer traffic. They don’t even want to do it, but they have been litigated into it. A perversion if the legal system that the RIAA pulled it off, and a perversion of the colleges that they have to. (And an even worse perversion that some are going so gung-ho doing it.) There are many facets to this argument. I will give examples of a few:

You own an amusement park. Families are paying you to attend your amusement park. They are also wearing counterfeit name brand sneakers. Is it your job to check everyone’s sneakers and report them to the police? No? Well, it shouldn’t be the college’s job to sniff out P2P traffic and report it to the police. The students are paying customers of the college. The in-room networking in the dorms is part of what they paid for. The students are just using it. If they use it for something illegal, why should that be the college’s responsibility?

You own a commercial building. Someone rents a store front from you to sell t-shirts and buttons, and movie posters. If he is selling counterfeit t-shirts, should Tommy Hilfigger expect you to take responsibility for it? Should he be able to take you to court and force you to check every single business transaction that occurs on every one of your rental properties, just in case someone sells a counterfeit Hillfigger item? Now just imagine all the different manufacturers of different branded consumer goods forcing you to identify all the items in every one of your rented out stores and make sure that nothing goes on that they don’t approve of on their behalf, for free, just so you don’t get sued, (again!) There is an interesting business model…

You can rent a car. People do all the time. If you commit a crime using a car you rented, is the rental company responsible? Should the rental company use GPS to track where you, (and everyone else,) go, and report to the police every time you go to the bank because you might be a bank robber? Should they report to the police every time you go to the store because you might be a shop lifter? If one rental company gets successfully sued for the actions of one of its customers, that is what will happen. It will cost more to rent a car because they will have to pay for software and manpower to monitor where you go and note what parking lots you stop in.

There are many legal files you can download on P2P. Linux for one. Any other opened source software as well. By reporting ALL P2P usage, they are possibly implicating honest students. You pay your taxes, but some people cheat on their taxes. Should your local ISP report every customer that files their taxes online because they could be cheating on their taxes?

Here is another example that pisses me off. Micro$oft, Windoze, and Windows Media Player. Media player used to be this tiny little app that played sound and video files. Microsoft got into the business of selling DRM to the media companies, so now when you pay for a copy of Windoze, the media player, embedded into the OS, is checking to see if you have a license for your media files. Media player used to be tiny, now it is about 50 times its original size, because M$ is checking up on you, and is doing their best to make sure you see the media they want you to see, and buy the media they want you to buy, from them or through them, and do not see or hear media that they do not approve of. If I buy an OS, I shouldn’t have to pay for the privilege of being snooped on by it.

P.S. You have every right to have someone make you a free sandwich and bring it to you. You also have every right to be disappointed when you don’t get it.

Almost Anonymous (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’m going to drop down to your level for a moment: You’re an idiot.

Having gotten that off my chest, did you know that World of Warcraft uses P2P systems (specifically BT) to distribute the updates for the application? This can happen as often as every Tuesday. I’ll venture a guess that there are probably one or two college-age people playing WoW. Why should they have to deal with whatever idiocy will come of a university reporting “suspicious” web traffic?!? And this is just one example of quite legal, mainstream usage of P2P.

darryl says:

we know what is bogus - So does Mike..

(which they later admitted were bogus)

No Mike they did not admit any such thing, as you damn well know.

Show us where they say “these stats are BOGUS” ?

Ofcourse you do not do that, because of one simple reason, what you are saying is what is in fact what is bogus.

Ofcourse if you search far enough, from your site, you find a DEAD LINK, to support the ‘bogus’ claim..

This one..

So show us a statment issued by the MPAA that states “our stats are bogus”

And what does it matter anyway, if 15% or 44% are breaking the law, its got nothing to do with statistics.

If 15% or 44% are people who murder other people it does not matter at all for each individual case, its still breaking the law.
Regardless of the stats, and if Universities are ‘only’ downloading ILLEGALLY 15% of the total that is still a huge amount.

And something the Government funded Universities need to stop, why should I pay taxes so some uni kid can use the university system not to learn, but to copy song for his own gains?

If you want to sponsor people downloading songs for their own use, go for it. But im not willing to pay for equipment that is ment to educate people THAT I FREAKING PAY FOR, so they can view porn, or download music, that any honest person has to pay for, has to pay sales tax on, that pay more to the Uni kid to steal my stuff..

Screw that,,

Just as I expect the air force not to give away free joy rides with my taxation money, I dont want universities that are supposed to educate, to teach kids how to steal, and to show them it’s ‘ok’ for them to steal, as its only 15% of the total damage.

Once again, Mike you cannot seem to see beyond the first level of complexity, you do not see the forest for the tree’s.

Get a clue Mike, learn how the planet works, and stop lying on behalf of others, it destroyes you reputation, which has never been that good !!..

What is truly bogus is your inability to tall the truth, and to make any level of logical sense.
You saying something is bogus is almost an endorsement that it is anything but bogus.

If Mike says its bogus chances are the original claim is 100% true, but Mike’s understanding of anything is bogus..

So im waiting for the link please Mike.

You know the one that actually supports your ‘claims’.
Take your time, its not like you have anything better to do !! (except flog crystall ball, paywalls )..

Show me the link, or any facts would be good.. any at all, that would be a pleasant surprise…

Egg, meet Face. says:

Re: we know what is bogus - So does Mike..

PDF Press Release from on the “isolated error” (what MPAA called the “bogus statistic”), from

January 23, 2008

and a little more info from

Feds hampered by incomplete MPAA piracy data – April 19, 2010

Thomas (profile) says:

Re: we know what is bogus - So does Mike..

If you are so interested in our student’s well-being, then you should be 100% in support of Universities NOT being harassed by the RIAA/”Entertainment” industry. The funds and resources that Universities are being forced to allocate to policing their own networks should be returned to giving our young people the education they (and you) are paying for.

Phil Wolff (profile) says:

Re: Values and Power

Some cultures respond to strong authority figures with respect and prioritize compliance and adherence as a social good. Others respond with caution and place higher priorities on freedom and independence. In-house counsel and security professionals tend to favor the first approach in their role as institutional risk minimizers. These professional views are reinforced where the general culture also puts “respect for authority” near the top of their values. Generalizing, such values prevail in US “Red States” and rural/agricultural counties.

Bush’s Great Recession has put great strain on the power of faculty and students everywhere to fight for academic independence and on-campus civil liberties. Their financially battered state college administrations are too worried about keeping schools open and figuring out how to raise fees and cut costs. They have no attention left for why exposure to expensive lawsuits and penalties could be morally correct and politically positive.

btr1701 (profile) says:


> I can’t imagine the local police will even know what to do with the
> information it’s being given.

No kidding. Even if it were a crime, it would be a *federal* crime and as we all know from the Arizona illegal immigration law, the local police can’t possibly enforce federal law. So says the Justice Department, anyway.

In reality, a small-town PD like Valdosta, Georgia, won’t give a tin-flip about some kid’s supposed copyright violations. I just imagine the police chief’s response to the university’s first call:

VU: Chief, we’ve got one of our students over here who used the wifis to download Beyonce’s new album and an episode of “America’s Next Top Model” off the torrents.

CHIEF: Okay… good luck with that. We’re busy doing police work over here.

Christopher (profile) says:

Re: Nonsense

That is actually true. The local police are NOT suppose to enforce federal law. If they find someone doing something wrong AND is also illegal under state law, then they can contact the feds and the person can be tried for the crime in question both in state and federal court.

If something isn’t illegal under state law that they find someone doing? They are just supposed to contact the feds and let them handle it, if they even wish to.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Nonsense

> If they find someone doing something wrong AND is also illegal
> under state law, then they can contact the feds and the person
> can be tried for the crime in question both in state and federal court.

Which is what the Arizona law did– it copied the federal law and said “this is also now a state crime”.

The DoJ apparently doesn’t think states can do that– ignoring the fact that they’ve been doing it for 200+ years.

Christopher (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Nonsense

Ah, but the Arizona law forgets that ONLY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT may make any law related IN ANY FASHION to immigration or immigration enforcement according to the Constitution.

Basically, the localities and even states don’t have the right to ‘copy federal law’ in this case because the Constitution says that they cannot.

btr1701 says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Nonsense

> ONLY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT may make any law related IN
> ANY FASHION to immigration or immigration enforcement according
> to the Constitution.the localities and even states don’t have the right
> to ‘copy federal law’ in this case because the Constitution says that
> they cannot.

The Constitution says no such thing. It gives the federal government jurisdiction over immigration but it doesn’t prohibit the states from enforcing federal law through concurrent state legislation.

As I said, the states have been doing this exact same thing for 200+ years and it’s never been a problem before.

For example, Article I, Section 8, gives the federal government jurisdiction over the prosecution and prevention of counterfeit currency. Yet all 50 states have passed laws on the state level making counterfeit currency a state offense as well. And the state and local police routinely arrest and prosecute people for making fake money.

You can find literally dozens of examples of states copying federal law and making concurrent state offenses out of them. It’s a commonly accepted practice.

Except when it comes to illegal immigration. Whenever illegals are involved, all the normal rules go out the window. The only rule that seems to apply is, “Anything that would tend to discourage or limit illegal immigration must be stopped immediately.”

SLK8ne says:

Do they even have the right?

The question in my mind is does this private institution have a legal right to do this? It seems to me that if they monitor students internet activity they are in violation of wiretapping laws. It is possible they could get hit with a slew of civil liberties lawsuits. Especially if the downloaders were found to be getting Linux OSs or other freebies available there. The university wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.

And as MikeLinPA pointed out there are plenty of legitimate non-pirated files on file sharing sites. Linux OSs, app manuals, tutorials, websites compiled into pdf’s by their authors, free e-books, troubleshooting tools, etc. Of course the RIAA fanboys will scoff at this, but, maybe they should go look for themselves, if they can open their minds long enough to see something other than their own self-righteous opinions.

Christopher (profile) says:

Re: Do they even have the right?

Good question…. that is an argument that has never been made in a court of law thus far, that doing this stuff might be in violation of wiretapping laws.

The colleges aren’t allowed to ‘eavesdrop’ on your phone conversations just because you are using their phones…. why should this be any different?

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...