University Bans Direct Connect After RIAA Pressure

University officials will make crucial policy changes that govern usage of the university computer network next Tuesday, effectively ending student access to the popular computer file sharing hub Direct Connect.

Direct Connect, better known to students as “DC++,” has provided students with thousands of copies of copyrighted songs, movies and other media free of charge for at least four years. But it has largely remained underground without any formal recognition by Office of Information Technology officials, despite operating for years on the university network.

That will change next week, OIT officials said in a conference call on Friday, due to a new rule in the university’s “Student Guidelines for Network Computer Use,” which will forbid students from running hubs like Direct Connect if they facilitate the sharing of copyrighted material. With no one running a hub on campus, students will not have a unified Direct Connect network to share files through the school.

OIT officials declined to comment on the specifics of why they decided to change the rule, but Charles, a university student who has run the Maryland hub for Direct Connect since February of 2002, said the shut-down was likely a response to warning letters from the music and recording industry sent out in April. He asked that his last name not be used to avoid possible legal problems.

He added that OIT officials received an anonymous letter from someone affiliated with the university aimed at blowing the whistle on illegal file-sharing. Although OIT officials declined to confirm receiving a letter, they stressed that they do not actively investigate the activity of students unless someone notifies them of a problem.