Lakers have no excuse for illegal streaming, downloading

By Lanthorn Editorial Board | 10/4/17 10:41pm


On Tuesday, Sept. 26, John Klein, associate director of academic services, sent out an email to all currently enrolled Grand Valley State University students with information about copyright laws and policies from GVSU Information Technology. 

The email stated that at GVSU, the IT department "receives several notifications of copyright violations per day." The email's purpose was to clarify the legal implications of this, explain GVSU's copyright policy and provide alternative legal options for downloading.

Much of the material on the internet is protected by copyright laws. Copyright violations are defined as copying someone else's work without permission and/or without paying the owner. This can be in the form of downloading songs, movies or software.

While torrenting illegal material is never justified, there is some gray area attached to students' illegitimate downloading of textbooks, considering the lofty prices. A lot of classes require textbooks, and on a college budget, many students can't afford to purchase them.

This can be a tempting option for a college student whose book tab for the semester is $400. We can all sympathize with the subsequent deficit after spending a small fortune on books; there have been many ramen noodle nights as a result.

Still, there are plenty of (legal) alternatives to violating copyright laws and downloading textbooks. One option would be talking directly to professors about your situation. Most professors are understanding of their students' financial situation and may offer an alternative option or helping hand. Another option would be purchasing books through financial aid. Not to mention, the Laker Store does offer to buy back textbooks during the week of final exams. Having extra cash in your pocket is an added bonus to being done with finals.  

Though torrenting textbooks provides some room for debate, downloading movies and music illegally does not. There are so many free music and video streaming options, and honestly, who doesn't know someone with a Netflix account?

If not Netflix, you can opt to watch YouTube videos for free or rent videos on or iTunes. Amazon Prime, a service that offers unlimited instant streaming of movies, TV shows and music, is only $49 per year for students. That's only around $4 a month. Even more, Pandora, SoundCloud and Spotify all offer free music streaming. There is also the option of Apple Music, which offers unlimited music for a student membership fee of $4.99 per month. For the same price, you can get both Spotify Premium and a Hulu membership with your GVSU email address.  

With all of these options, why are students streaming illegally? It's simply not worth it. Quoting Klein's email, "Copying more than $1,000 worth of material can bring criminal penalties and include fines of up to $250,000 and prison terms of up to 10 years." Who has the time or money for that?

Besides, aren't we better as Lakers? Stealing material without permission is never okay. With so many alternative options available, there is no excuse for illegally torrenting material. Rather, we should be taking advantage of the fact that we are students and use the discounts and free services provided to us. 

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