Students share music over dorm networks

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Many Brown students are sharing music with each other over the Brown network with a file-sharing program called OurTunes that uses Apple’s iTunes program.

Developed by Stanford University student David Blackman along with the contributions of other programmers, OurTunes allows users connected to a local area network to find and download songs off Apple’s popular iTunes program in MP3 or AAC format. Recent versions of iTunes include a music-sharing feature that allows users to listen to each other’s music but not download it to their own computers.

OurTunes users can connect to iTunes and get a searchable list of all of the connected hosts’ songs, which can then be played or downloaded. Songs bought from Apple’s iTunes music store cannot be downloaded.

Unlike well-known file-sharing programs Kazaa and Napster, iTunes and OurTunes users can only access songs from others connected to their LAN. Most LANs at Brown extend to a single campus building.

Computing and Information Services representatives said Brown is not targeting OurTunes users as it does users of other file-sharing programs.

CIS Communication and Documentation Coordinator Pat Falcon said if CIS finds out about copyright violations, the University will contact students and ask them to remove the material from their computer.

“If our policies are violated, we refer the problems to Campus Life, Human Resources, or other offices who deal with disciplinary action, as appropriate,” Connie Sadler, IT security director for CIS, wrote in an e-mail.

Brown’s official policy for violation of copyright law states, “Universities and individuals can be subject to the imposition of substantial damages for copyright infringement incidents relating to the use of University network services.”

Sadler also wrote, “What really concerns us is the possibility of one of our students being singled out for illegal activity. That type of activity will impact the individual student more than it will impact Brown.”

In April, the Recording Industry Association of America served Brown with a subpoena in relation to a lawsuit against two file-sharers who used a computer network registered to the University. Brown complied with the subpoena and turned over information about the two network users, who were two Roger Williams University students, according to literature CIS distributed to student employees in August.

Apple has taken steps to disable previous programs that allowed users to download songs from iTunes. Bill Zeller, a student at Trinity College, developed a similar program called MyTunes, which Apple disabled last April by altering iTunes so that MyTunes could not access it. Another program, GetTunes, is still in use.

In just a few months, OurTunes has been downloaded over 150,000 times. The development of OurTunes coincided with Duke University’s decision to give every entering freshman an iPod. Duke’s program, a partnership with Apple, garnered national publicity – and, in at least one instance, indirectly helped to publicize OurTunes.

“I found out about iTunes through my friend from Duke,” said Rachel Aland ’08.

The RIAA claims to have seen a 31 percent decline in sales from 1999 to 2002, blaming file-sharing as a primary culprit. But an anti-iTunes Web site, “iTunes iSbogus,” contends that iTunes itself hurts the music industry because Apple takes 35 percent of the 99 cents charged for every song, leaving the artist with only 8 to 14 cents.

“(File sharing) is civil disobedience,” said Jonathan Guyer ’08, “because the record industry charges exorbitant prices for albums.”