March 1, 2007

Sure, That’s Definitely Why I Picked A Career In Academia [7:43 am]

From Inside Higher Ed: Campus Downloading Crackdown

The music industry is ramping up its campaign against illegal file sharing by college students — and asking campus administrators to play a more central role in that process.

Since late 2003, when entertainment companies began suing people for sharing large amounts of music (and eventually movies) over the Internet in violation of federal copyright law, the Recording Industry Association of America has filed about 1,000 of its 18,000 lawsuits against students. In a new strategy it announced Wednesday, the association said it will send 400 “pre-litigation” letters each month (a total of 5,000 a year) offering students the chance to settle at a “substantially discounted” rate what they owe for downloading music illegally and to keep the association from filing lawsuits that would appear on their public record.

The RIAA’s letters will go to administrators at colleges and universities to deliver the notices to the appropriate students, and the first batch of 400 letters went out Wednesday to officials at 13 universities, mostly large public ones (see list at bottom). Students who don’t respond within 20 days will face lawsuits.

[...] While students are the ultimate targets, college officials have a responsibility and a role to play, too, Sherman said. “We take this opportunity to once again ask schools to be proactive to step up and accept responsibility for the activities of students on their networks. It’s not a legal responsibility, but a moral responsibility, as educators, as leaders transmitting values to their students.”

The file sharing issue has been a thorny one for many college and university administrators, who see themselves as having a responsibility to limit an illegal activity taking place on their campuses (an activity that can also clog their networks), yet aren’t thrilled about having to play technology cop to their students on the entertainment industry’s behalf.

Don’t miss this piece of sophistry from U of MD’s Chancellor Brit Kirwin:

Kirwan also said colleges’ dependence on intellectual property gives them added responsibility. “It would be very hypocritical of us to argue for protection of intellectual property that is coming from our enterprise,” in the form of scholarship, “and look the other way when people are abusing property rights on our own campuses.

Even worse — the RIAA “education” program is making some headway (from Record labels go after USC downloaders; pdf)

But others, such as Christina Carey, 19, believe that the industry has the right to go after students who illegally download.

“They’re getting robbed,” said Carey.

She said she never illegally downloaded music, but acknowledged there was a thin line between sharing and pirating. Carey makes CDs for friends, she said, but some of them won’t accept copies of CDs even as gifts.

Also Industry Pressure on Music Piracy; much later (March 8), Hiawatha Bray gets around to covering it: Record firms crack down on campuses (pdf). <sarcasm>As is typical for his work, he includes this deep insight:

Eric Garland, chief executive of BigChampagne Media Measurement in Beverly Hills, Calif., thinks the RIAA’s latest gambit is meant to goad colleges into cracking down on file piracy. “The real intent of this new focus on students is probably as much about applying pressure on college and university administrators to clean up their networks, as it is about students.”

</sarcasm> Hey, at least he included it!

Later: A House judiciary subcommittee hearing - Hearing: “An Update – Piracy on University Networks”

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