UAA slows campus Web speed to fight illegal downloads

PIRACY: Entertainment industry complaints prompt the decision.

Associated PressDecember 1, 2011 

The groan is almost audible coming from dormitory rooms at UAA.

The university is intentionally slowing the speed of Internet connections in all on- campus dorm rooms to prevent students from infringing on copyrights when downloading movies, music and videos, a move first reported by UAA's student newspaper, The Northern Light.

Rich Whitney, in charge of computers and telecommunications services at UAA, said Thursday that the slowdown of Internet connections should be completed within a week.

But students are organizing on Facebook to fight the dreaded drag.

UAA student George Brandenburg set up the "Take The Internet Back!" Facebook page "in response to the unfair decision by UAA to severely decrease the internet speed on campus for housing residents because of certain individuals partaking in piracy," the site says.

What is needed is "serious brainstorming" to find ways to reverse the university's decision because it affects "the way many of us enjoy our free time and our personal lives," the site says.

Brandenburg did not immediately return a message to the AP Thursday.

The Internet connection in residence halls is being slowed from 10 megabits per second to 2 megabits. While that sounds like a lot, Whitney said the only thing that will be affected is high-definition streaming. Students will still have plenty of speed to do their school work, he said. Video gaming should not be affected.

What will change is student access to illegal download sites using their dorm room Internet connections.

"We don't want to be the Internet police," Whitney said. "This is just a practical amount of steps to be taken to try and get under control these complaints."

While a vast majority of UAA students are going to school and using their Internet connections appropriately and legally, there are "a relatively small number of infringers," he said.

Whitney has been swamped by complaints from the entertainment industry about the illegal downloads, reaching 878 in 2010. The complaints are on pace to set a record this year. He said over 95 percent of the complaints were being generated by illegal downloads being conducted in on-campus residence halls.

For years, the university tried an education campaign that included fliers, public meetings and working with department chairs, as well as disciplinary action to keep students from downloading copyrighted materials, but the complaints about copyright infringement still came flooding in, he said.

The list of copyright holders with complaints "goes on and on," he said, including entertainment giants Paramount Pictures, Home Box Office, Columbia Pictures, Activision and Sony Pictures.

"All of these organizations are actively trying to protect their copyrights," Whitney said.

UAA's Internet pirates love their "Harry Potter"

That according to a sampling of the movies, music and video games that copyright holders reported stolen from Internet addresses at the Anchorage campus. Of about 30 recent cases of illegal downloads, six were for "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two," according to the University of Alaska. Among the other illegal downloads: reported at UAA:

• "The Adjustment Bureau"

• "Conan the Barbarian"

• "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim" (video game)

• "Kung Fu Panda 2"

• "Paranormal Activity 2"

• "Water for Elephants"

• "Megamind"

• "Rio"

• "Big Sean: Finally Famous" (album)

• "Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown"

Copyright holders reported 75 illegal downloads in November at the UAA campus and another 35 at the UAF campus.

-- Kyle Hopkins, khopkins@adn.com

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