Academia Gets Lowdown on Downloads

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Computer companies are making sure that a bunch of anti-piracy materials will be included in the back-to-school supplies of college students this fall.

The Supreme Court may have struck a blow for copyright protection of digital content in the Grokster case, but it will apparently take a lot more to get that anti-piracy message to the rank and file.

Two thirds of college students say they see nothing unethical about downloading and swapping copyrighted files--TV shows, music, movies, software--without paying for them. And even a quarter of their professors agree.

That's according to a May study being heavily re-promoted this week by the Business Software Alliance (BSA), which comprises virtually all the major computer companies, as it prepares to send out posters, bookmarks and other collateral material to schools across the country to convince students and teachers alike to stop illegal downloads.

"Most businesses understand the consequences of software theft and will not tolerate employees who share unlicensed software," says BSA VP, public affairs, Diane Smiroldo. "Our colleges and universities need to continue to emphasize to students that software piracy on campus won’t be tolerated either.”

For the first time, BSA will target Deans of Student affairs, sending them posters to hang in common areas, student unions and computer labs, plus material for freshman orientation packets.

BSA launched its "Define the Line" campaign last fall, which rather than suggesting a heavy-handed crackdown on digital file swapping, emphasized instead a line between legal and illegal swapping and the responsibilty of knowing the difference.