Student received warning after downloading internet content illegally in campus dorm

Photo Illustration by Marc Valle | The Signal
By Lauren Booker Associate News Editor & Matthew Wolff Staff Reporter

Photo Illustration by Marc Valle | The Signal
Photo Illustration by Marc Valle | The Signal

fter downloading “Grudge Match” and an episode of “Girls” from FrostWire, Georgia State’s University Lofts resident Lindsey Kernisant said she was shocked to receive an email warning about her internet use.Apogee, Georgia State’s telephone, cable and internet service provider, sent her the emails telling her she had one more chance before her internet access would be suspended. She said the emails also stated Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and HBO could sue her for illegal downloading.

“I pay a lot of money to stay here, and just because I downloaded a show and a movie doesn’t mean I should get sued,” she said. “I am a college student, and I don’t have that much money, and I am sure they have millions of dollars … I was kind of angry.”

The software she said she used to download the works was FrostWire, which is a free BitTorrent+Cloud downloading application for computers, according to FrostWire’s website.

“I [have] downloaded before and I never got an email. I really don’t download that much,” she said.
Warner Bros. said Kernisant illegally distributed unauthorized copies of Grudge Match. The company then directed Apogee to contact and take action against her based on Apogee’s abuse policy/terms of service agreement, according to the email.

“Also, we hereby state, under penalty of perjury, that we are authorized to act on behalf of the owner of the exclusive rights being infringed as set forth in this notification,” the email from Warner Bros. states.

Kernisant said she doesn’t understand how Apogee sent the email to her personal email address or Apogee’s policies on internet use.

“It’s not like I am going to read the terms and agreement because those things are like 1,000 pages. But they should definitely try to bullet point the main things that students do,” she said.

Policy on illegal downloads

Apogee’s end-user service agreement states users may not get information, software and other materials for uploading, posting, publishing or transmitting without the permission of the copyright owner or right-holder.

“You understand that you may be held liable both under civil and criminal law for infringements of the intellectual property rights and copyrights of others. You may be held liable for all actual damages and profits, attorney’s fees, costs, or the court may award statutory damages under the copyright act. In addition, criminal liability can include fines and imprisonment,” the agreement states.

The agreement also states users cannot violate the law or help someone else do so. The laws for copyright infringement falls under the Copyright Law of the United States of America and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998.

Additionally, Apogee may deny access to all or a part of the services without notice, according to the agreement. Once services are denied, the person cannot access materials stored on Internet through Apogee or access third party services.

Copyright infringement is committed when copies of a work are imported without the authority from the owner and is a violation of the Copyright Law of the United States of America, according to the law.

The perpetrator can be fined $750 to $30,000 based on the court’s decision. If the infringement was willful, the court could decide to increase the sum of damages to $150,000, according to the Copyright Law.

FrostWire states they seek to enforce and comply with DMCA’s standards. Users who are repeat infringers would also be denied access to their website, according to FrostWire’s terms and conditions.

After the incident, Kernisant said she feels like her privacy has been invaded and since stopped downloading from FrostWire.

“It was kind of weird that they knew exactly what I was downloading. It felt like someone was watching over me,” she said.

Social media monitoring

Terry Coniglio, Georgia State’s assistant director of social media, said she posts to and monitors social media on the behalf of the university.

“The first part of my job is managing the oversight and daily activities on the main Georgia State social media accounts and the second part of my job is helping the school’s units and departments around campus with any social media strategy questions or execution they might have,” she said.

Coniglio also said Georgia State uses a geo-fencing program to monitor tweets based on user’s proximity to campus.

“There’s lots of programs out there that can do that and we use a program called Hootsuite and we can geofind any area and see what is being tweeted out,” she said.

Geo-fencing programs only show the tweets of users who allow themselves to be tracked, according to Coniglio.

“But it really only works if the user has enabled the locate function in their Twitter account,” she said. “So if you personally have that off or you don’t identify where you are, then no you’re not going to show up in any feed like that.”

The university also responds to student concerns posted on social media, according to Coniglio.

“That depends on what the issue is and we do have a backend platform that we can assign those tweets to certain staff members across campus to help alleviate the problem,” she said. “We have the ability to, if someone were to complain about a certain issue, if that department is in the platform with us, assign it to them and they can respond because they’re going to have the best information to help that student.”

Coniglio also said she does not actively search for social media posts from students that may be threatening or inappropriate.
“I’m not here to get the students in trouble,” she said.

However, individual social media networks have their own procedure for posts containing threatening language, according to Coniglio.

“The [social media] platforms have their own protocol for that,” she said. “With Facebook, they have a very robust team for suicide prevention.”

The university has never dealt with instances of students posting they were considering hurting themselves or others, according to Coniglio.

“From a social media perspective, we have not encountered that situation yet, but that’s something that the counseling center can deal with,” she said.

Clinical Associate Professor of Legal Studies Perry Binder said students should be cautious to not use social media to make hurtful comments about others.

“Posting false statements of facts about someone on social networks could result in a defamation action for money damages. In some countries, libel is a crime as well as a civil remedy,” he said.

Binder also said that for a university setting, there are less restrictions on what individuals have the ability to post on social media platforms.

“There has been a lot of controversy concerning cyberbullying in the United States. Many K-12 schools have specific rules against this activity,” he said. “Outside the K-12 environment, as long as someone is expressing an opinion and not a false statement of fact about someone, there likely won’t civil liability, as distasteful as that speech is.”

Binder also said people should practice restraint with what they do and say on the internet even if they believe they are posting anonymously.

“The recent trend is for students to post comments on anonymous social networks, like YikYak. They should be warned that if their statements are defamatory, a lawsuit can be filed against the social network to find out the name of the anonymous poster,” he said. “If the injured person can demonstrate that the harm to him or her outweighs the right to be anonymous on the internet, then the judge will subpoena the name of the poster, and a lawsuit may ensue.”