UW-Eau Claire encourages students to stream movies legally

What downloading a movie from an illegal website could really mean

More stories from Lauren Spierings

COVID on campus
April 1, 2021

Photo by Lauren Spierings

Some students download illegal movies through gaming consoles on the shared wifi, Eckardt said.

“Someone will go to the movie theater with their phone and record the whole movie from their seat,” Chip Eckardt said. “Well, the quality is nowhere near as good as what it would be to go to a movie.”

According to Chip Eckardt⁠ — the UW-Eau Claire chief information officer ⁠— the university receives takedown notices about illegally downloaded content every year. 

These notices, usually from the Recording Industry Association of America or the motion picture industry, indicate the date and time that an IP address from the UW-Eau Claire campus downloaded a movie or song illegally. 

“We seem to get it in streaks,” Eckardt said. “We had probably a dozen, which is very unusual. We’ll go months with nothing.”

The amount of notices typically goes up in the fall a few times when new first-years arrive on campus. 

Despite using incognito mode or private browsing to keep information of illegal downloads from storing on a computer, the information is still on the internet where it originated from, Eckardt said.

“They just don’t get it through their heads that you have to pay for stuff,” Eckardt said. “It’s the same as going into a store and stealing a can of pop or a sandwich or whatever.”

Eckardt spoke of one case where a student ended up having to drop out of school because they downloaded a movie illegally. The copyright holder enforced the case and ended up charging $7,000.

“It’s just a movie you watch for two hours,” an anonymous source said. “I don’t think you should have to pay thousands of dollars just to be able to enjoy a movie with your friends. It’s not that big of a deal.”

The anonymous source said they stream movies because sometimes the desired movie isn’t available on Netflix or the MyTv10 streaming service.

“I’m kind of another broke college student just like the rest of us,” the anonymous source said. “It’s just the easiest, simplest way. I don’t really have a moral problem with it, I suppose, because honestly I don’t really think about it.”

Jill Markgraf, the library director and copyright officer, said that as an internet service provider, the university has some protections from getting in trouble for students downloading illegal content.

However, if the university is aware of the individual’s behavior it must suspend the account used.

“Because of the nature of our dynamic IP numbers, sometimes we can’t identify the individual,” Markgraf said. “But if we can, I think there is some responsibility on our part to discontinue their access to the network if they continue to violate the terms of use.”

Instead, Markgraf said students are encouraged to use the numerous streaming availabilities already provided by the university. These include the MyTV10 streaming service, the McIntyre streaming database and Feature Films for Education.

Additionally, Markgraf mentioned that Just Watch was a good website to find places where a movie is streamed legally.

Markgraf said the library allows faculty to use films for education, so the staff tries to find ways to make those films accessible. Sometimes these films end up being not just documentaries, but also feature films.

“My real interest is in making sure that students are aware that there are options and that there’s a whole lot of content out there that’s already paid for and already licensed on their behalf,” Markgraf said. 

Spierings can be reached at [email protected]