Things to Know About Downloading Music (Hypertext student newsletter)

This story written by Mara Abrams, a senior in Communication and Psychology, was originally published in the Summer 2004 edition of the Hypertext quarterly student newsletter. Go to http://scg/hypertext/2004summer.pdf to view a downloadable PDF of the entire newsletter.

Copyright issues surrounding file-sharing and the downloading of music and other digital media are popular topics of discussion in the news and at universities nationwide. To help you better understand your rights, responsibilities, and options as a UC Davis student, we've developed this list of tips.

  • Legal file-sharing options abound
    There are many legal uses of file-sharing programs. Some may find it useful when sharing non-copyrighted info for a group project. There are many options for safely downloading music:

    • Music Clips: At the very least, you can legally listen to clips of music through your favorite artists' Web sites. You can also listen to and download entire songs from selected featured artists (which change from week to week) on the Web sites of popular music channels, such as
    • Internet Radio: LAUNCH Music ( is one online radio station that streams music from the genres you select as your favorites. Live365 ( allows you to listen to a more eclectic variety of music available through other users' playlists.
    • Songs a la Carte: Many services offer individually downloadable songs for under a dollar, with Napster, iTunes Music Store, and MusicMatch usually charging ninety-nine cents per song. Some sites allow you to previe w a 15-20 second clip of the song before you download it.
    • Subscription Services: Subscription services like Rhapsody ( provide the option of streaming music for $9.95 per month.
  • Your file-sharing activities are not anonymous
    The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and other license holders employ scanning technology that can scope out computer networks (including UC Davis) and detect copyright infringement. That's how they sued four college students last year, with settlements ranging from $12,000 to 17,000.
  • UC Davis cannot protect you from getting sued
    Subpoenas are often issued to Internet Service Providers (like UC Davis) in an attempt to collect copyright violators' names. If UC Davis receives such a subpoena, it will do its best to contact an individual prior to releasing identifying information, but will still respond to every lawful claim. If your computer is found to be illegally trading movies, music, etc., even if a visitor used your computer to do it, an Area Conduct Coordinator will meet with you to determine your level of responsibility. If found responsible, you will receive a formal warning from Student Housing, and your name will be placed on record with Student Judicial Affairs. In the meantime, your port will be disabled, and may remain disabld for 7-10 days or more after the matter is resolved.

To avoid running into these issues and for more info, check out the File Sharing section of the Student Computing Guide ( You can also send your file sharing questions to