A computer specialist who allegedly set up a site to download music using a server at Medical College of Georgia has been fired by the school. That kind of music technology has become an increasing headache for the recording industry and a concern for Georgia universities, officials said.
Former MCG employee Joseph Rovira worked in information systems in the Office of Grants and Contracts, helping researchers with things such as setting up databases and Web pages, said Clay Steadman, senior legal adviser for MCG. During the past couple of months, information system employees noticed a steady drain of computer time from the school's servers and went looking for the source.
They found that Mr. Rovira had set up a Web site accessed through his personal account that also used the school's servers, Mr. Steadman said.
"It was MP3 (downloadable music) that he was offering to other people that they could access this music and download it for their own use," Mr. Steadman said. The school fired Mr. Rovira effective Sept. 5 for misuse of state equipment, Mr. Steadman said. Mr. Rovira is contesting the firing and has a grievance hearing next week, Mr. Steadman said. The school has seized Mr. Rivera's computer equipment and records and still is investigating whether further action is warranted, Mr. Steadman said. Reached at home, Mr. Rovira said he did not want to comment until after his grievance is decided.
Mr. Rovira had been disciplined for basically the same thing nine months before, Mr. Steadman said. The school was alerted about that incident by the Recording Industry Association of America, Mr. Steadman said. That group has an aggressive anti-piracy campaign and sent out 4,600 notices in the first six months of this year - a 200 percent increase over 1999 - against sites violating federal copyright law by offering the downloadable music, said Frank Creighton, senior vice president and director of the anti-piracy program for the Recording Industry Association of America.
Part of that may be greater interest in Internet music, in part sparked by the publicity over the group's suit against the music Web site Napster, and part may be the beefed-up enforcement efforts by the group, Mr. Creighton said.
"I have a team of Internet specialists that are out there looking for this stuff," Mr. Creighton said.
When they find a site, they send out a notice that it is violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and ask that it be taken down. When the group began cracking down on sites in 1997, about 70 percent of them involved university systems, Mr. Creighton said. Through an intensive education program with schools, the number is down to about 30 percent now. A recent survey of schools found 37 percent had specifically banned Napster and similar sites, Mr. Creighton said.
Because of academic freedom issues, the University System of Georgia has not specifically banned the sites, although staff and students know they should not use university resources for inappropriate purposes, said Randall Thursby, chief information officer for the Board of Regents.
"The University System does not try to pre-censor," Mr. Thursby said. "We deal with it when we run across any illegal activity." The system does monitor overall usage, and someone running a Napster-style site would be readily apparent because of the high outbound traffic, Mr. Thursby said.
The sites do not appear to be causing a problem yet at the University of Georgia in Athens, said Kirk Bertram, acting chief information officer and associate provost. Only about 30 percent to 40 percent of capacity is being used right now on campus, but officials are concerned about the issue and planned to meet today to talk about it, Mr. Bertram said.
"That and computer security will be issues we're going to be dealing with in the next four to five years," Mr. Bertram said. University policy for students and staff prohibit the downloading unless it is work- or course-related, Mr. Bertram said.
Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213.
The Recording Industry Association of America's Soundbyting program was created to raise awareness at universities about the legal issues involved with reproducing and distributing music. The campaign started in 1998 with 10 schools and now has 350 participants.