Many students know it’s against the law to download copyrighted material. Recently, they received a message reminding them of the seriousness of this. However, the penalties at school may not be as harsh as the students think.
The email to students told them that illegal downloading is prohibited by Canada’s copyright legislation and violates the college’s Student Conduct and Acceptable Use of Information Technology policies.
The email went on to say students who breach this policy under certain terms are subject to sanctions. They can range from warnings to even suspension or dismissal from the college.
“Offenders may also be prosecuted under federal, provincial and municipal laws, regulations and bylaws,” according to the email.
Janse Tolmie is the IT Services chief information officer. The email was sent on his behalf. He says the email was sent out at this time because in Canada, companies are increasing their activity in policing copyrighted material and the college wants to follow the law.
“We just wanted to make users aware,” said Tolmie. “There’s an escalation on behalf of the media companies to say, ‘We are most serious about this.’”
He said the email was not related to higher electricity bills, viruses, or anything connected directly to the college.
“It doesn’t necessarily do anything directly to the college, but if it’s illegal: it’s copyright and somebody downloads it, then it’s not allowed,” he said. “It’s not allowed by Canadian legislation but also by the college’s policies.”
So how does the process work? Tolmie says a media company might find out from a networking site that a certain IP address from Durham College and UOIT was used, and the company may send a notice to the school.
The company doesn’t have access to the actual name of the perpetrator, and the only way they can get it is through a court.
IT Services then finds the owner of the IP address and sends to their email the exact same notice the media company sent to the student as a warning. But students will not be given a boot the very first time a notice is sent.
It is true that a student may get suspended. In reality, it is highly unlikely, according to both Tolmie and Tom Lynch, director of Campus Safety.
“I’ve been here for six years, and I’m not aware of a Student Conduct policy being engaged for copyright infringement,” Lynch said.
And for those that are actually called in to Campus Safety for other forms of student misconduct, Lynch says the school is good at making sure not only will students not return to trouble afterward, but the student can be heard if they have a concern.
“We really have a hard look at what caused the behaviour,” said Lynch. “Sometimes it’s stress, sometimes it’s the first time living alone, it’s all kinds of first things, and it can be stressful, so our intention is to address the concern.”
If a student feels there’s a misunderstanding, such as not knowing it was against student policy or did something not knowing it was a copyright infringement, Lynch said they will be listened to and not just sent off on a warning.
Also, according to Lynch, about 95 per cent of students who visit Campus Safety don’t have to come back. For those that do, however, the suspension will be included in their transcripts.
As for how many students have gotten notifications lately, Tolmie does not currently want that information released for privacy matters.