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It's not a surprise that downloading copyrighted music and movies is illegal but college students are often still surprised when they get caught.
There are a lot of myths about whether illegal downloading is really that bad and whether it will lead to legal trouble. The answer to those two questions is 'yes' and 'yes.' Entertainment companies take their intellectual property seriously which can lead to big fines for illegal downloaders.
If you think you're safe because you download things from your dorm room, think again. You're just as easy to find there as you are at home.
The way companies find illegal file-sharing is generally through the IP address that is downloading the files. Your IP address is an identifier for your specific computer on an Internet network. That allows people to see where downloads are going.
On a college campus, shared computers have one IP address but multiple users which can give the illusion that there's some anonymity. But don't be fooled.
Copyright holders can still find who is downloading their material on a shared college computer because of the way most schools set up their Internet connection. To stop unauthorized use, they require students to sign-in to their student accounts to reach the Internet.
By logging in you've identified yourself on the system. Any activity done on the college's Internet connection can then be traced directly back to your username.
Some college students also have the misconception that illegal downloading charges will fall on the school but the law isn't on their side.
Laws on illegal file-sharing target the individual doing it. The fact that it's done on the college network doesn't make the college liable.
Of course, being on a college campus you may not be the only person accessing your computer or username. If you get sued for downloading files you know that you don't have, don't hesitate to get a lawyer on your side. Otherwise you may end up paying serious cash for something you didn't even get to enjoy.
Illegal downloading is a serious offense and college students are not immune to it. Find other ways to enjoy your favorite music and movies unless you're willing to pay the price.