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Copying Downloads for Friends? Get Out Your Checkbook

The cost of college life just keeps on climbing. Just ask U. of Oregon senior Jeffrey Levy, who pleaded guilty to federal charges of distributing thousands of copyrighted songs, movie clips and software programs through his campus computer connection on August 20th. Levy could now face up to three years behind bars and, get this, $250,000 in fines. That's right, $250,000. And you thought student loans were bad.

At one point, Levy was passing the equivalent of about 250 full-length MP3 songs over the school network every hour. University officials noticed the hefty load of data going through Levy's site and contacted law enforcement officials.

It seems that Levy, a public policy management major, hadn't been keeping up with current Congressional policies on copyright infringement. The No Electronic Theft (NET) Act, passed by Congress in 1997 under heavy pressure from the music and software industries, makes distribution of copyrighted material illegal even when there's no profit involved, so even though Levy wasn't charging any money for access to his site, he's going to have to pay up big-time.

And surprisingly, students aren't rushing out to support the web pirate. "If it was my program or music that someone was giving out for free, I'd want some type of retribution," says Mitch Hochhauser, a sophomore at Syracuse U. "But for a college student who wasn't making any money, jail time is too much. A large fine would leave any student hurting for a long time." Ouch!

By David Konopka, Syracuse U.

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