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Illegal Media Downloading: A Federal Offense but a Campus Norm

“Did you see the new Gossip Girl last night?”

“Yeah, during study hall!”

Conversations like this about the latest shows or movies are the norm on campus. But with limited access to TV, how do boarding students keep up with current broadcasts?

The answer is attributed to the rising popularity of illegal media downloading sites such as limewire and surfthechannel.com. These sites enable students to download music, movies, and TV shows, and keep up to date with their favorite programs.

Why do we download off the internet? According to a recent survey, a vast majority enjoyed the cost (read: free) and the convenience. Rose Pember ’11 also claimed, “Not everything is on iTunes.”

Downloading media from unofficial sources is a criminal offense, however, “It seems the school and ITS focus on it [illegal downloading]only because of viruses, not ‘artists’ rights,’” said Pember.

When questioned about the immorality of illegal downloads, Curtis Oh ’11 said, “They [artists] should choose a different job if they have a problem. Part of being an artist is being pirated.”

Still, there are a surprising number of students who stick to the legal system, downloading only from iTunes or purchased CDs.

An honest music buyer, Palmer Quamme ’11 has purchased the majority of her songs. With her iTunes account hooked to her parents’ credit card, she admits the cost has added up over the years. Still, Quamme’s parents support her. “My parents think illegal downloading is like stealing so they don’t want me doing it.” As a plus, her computer is less exposed to harmful internet viruses. Another bonus is the quality of her media; downloading from iTunes assures music of prime caliber.

Even Quamme is guilty of the occasional legal transgression, however. Like other Deerfield students, she has a practical reason. “Being at school makes it harder to get movies legally––you can’t just go to Blockbuster!”

So is trying to prevent illegal media downloads on campus a hopeless cause? “Not exactly,” said Pember. “If I were the school, I would just promote iTunes more.”

Many students like Quamme share what may be a more realistic point of view. “Unfortunately, the internet’s a hard thing to control,” she said. Ultimately, no matter how many security systems the school imposes and how much the school condemns illegal downloading on campus, “We’re always going to find a way.”

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