About 100 student computers were seized Thursday by the U.S. Naval Academy on suspicion that they housed unauthorized music and movie files.
The computers, which are given to students upon admission, were confiscated while class was in session, according to an academy spokesperson. Illegal possession of copyrighted material is against academy policy and has been a problem since the days of Napster’s widespread popularity a few years ago, said the spokesperson, who added that the offense could carry a punishment as severe as a court-marshal.
The U.S. Naval Academy was one of more than 2,300 colleges and universities that were sent a letter last month by groups representing the movie and music industries. The correspondence, addressed to school presidents, alerted them of the legal, moral and technical ramifications of illegal file sharing.
The academy is one of the first educational organizations to take such drastic measures against the practice, but it is not known if the school’s actions are in response to the letter it received. The Naval Academy spokesperson declined to comment.
“We appreciate institutions who take intellectual property theft seriously,” read a statement issued by the Recording Industry Association of America. “However, we do not dictate what their enforcement policies should be, and, in this particular instance, we do not know the facts of the case.”
A few weeks after the schools were notified, a similar letter was sent to the heads of the country’s biggest companies. Businesses and colleges are being targeted because they use high-speed Internet connections, which make downloading music and movies easier.