Monitoring illegal downloads wise

By Editorial Board

Columbia recently began monitoring Internet activity on its networks to detect illegal activity such as peer-to-peer file sharing and torrent downloads. If students are found violating the official Network and Computer Use Policy, their Internet access will be disabled for 15 minutes and they must agree to the terms of use. If there are multiple violations, the person will face disciplinary action and possibly fines or a lawsuit.

Cracking down on illegal downloading is a smart move for colleges, especially for an institution like Columbia that focuses on education in media arts. Protecting copyright laws and enforcing restrictions on file sharing benefits artists and the careers of media arts students.

Also, the college risks losing its federal funding if it does not enforce established laws regarding illegal Internet traffic. This funding is necessary for the college to function and losing some or all of it would create a serious financial issue.

There is no reason why Columbia should not track people using its networks for illegal purposes. According to Student Life News at, peer-to-peer sharing can also expose the college’s networks to viruses or spyware, which can affect many people using the network.

However, some students may be illegally downloading files for educational purposes such as computer programs like Photoshop, InDesign or Final Cut. Columbia should consider providing other options for students who require expensive software for their major to avoid having them use illegal channels. Including programs such as these as part of a student’s tuition or part of a course fee could be an option for the college.

The line of what is legal and what is not can be fuzzy, and there is a risk that students who are legally sharing files can get locked out of the network as well. Columbia has measures in place to prevent these misunderstandings, and if a student is shut out of the network they can contact Columbia’s User Support to verify that their actions were indeed legal.

Although the new measures won’t necessarily stop college students from downloading or streaming content online, it will prevent them from doing so on the Columbia network.