I have been following some recent threads about the RIAA’s attempts to bully campuses into forcing students to comply with copyright laws. On boingboing, this article summarizes the University of Nebraska’s frustration with the RIAA’s demands to rat out students who are sharing music using peer-to-peer technologies. They were so fed up that they plan on sending this organization a bill for all the time they have wasted. You got to love it when a university finally says enough is enough.
At the other extreme, Purdue University has warned that the RIAA has requested information about thousands of students. According to Bob Caswell’s (whose post you can find here):
Last week, 40,000+ students at Purdue (including myself) received a warning email. In short, stop illegal downloads, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is coming. Purdue is advising all computer users to remove or at least partially disable any peer-to-peer file sharing software on their computers.
Moreover, he notes that while Purdue is not necessarily excited by the prospect of cooperating with the RIAA given the logistical nightmare it presents, they have taken the tact of washing their hands of any responsibility of inaccurate information being passed along. Caswell continues:
So why would the university be interested in accuracy if a) this whole process is a “significant cost” and b) it’s not Purdue’s fault if it screws up? Call me Mr. Skeptical, but I have little faith in any institution that seems forced do something while simultaneously eliminating responsibility for its actions.
Classic case of our hands are tied and we can’t do anything but cooperate with these demands. Well, from what I understand Nebraska has set a precedent Purdue might consider following. Tell them no, and charge them for wasting everyone’s time because they haven’t figured out a good way to make online music easily accessible, affordable and free of rootkit nightmares. This is obviously the last gasps of a moribund vision of business who has to resort to threatening their target audience.
Sad part about it, is that the resorting to fear and terror seems to work! Of the 400 college students from over 13 universities who received letters from the RIAA threatening suit, over 116 of them have made a settlement (link). I’m not sure about you, but wouldn’t such letters and the fact that the RIAA is sniping their own audience be enough to “Just Say No!” Looks like there will be plenty more letters sent out until we start re-imagining how we can continue to create spaces that foster the creative process free from the greed-inspired threats of a dying industry.
Update: Looks like the University of Maine system has flat out refused to play ball with the RIAA -if I were ready to be an undergrad, I’d be packing some warm clothes and heading north! Here’s a cool bit from the article:
According to Jon Ippolito, a UMaine new media professor and associate curator of media arts at the Guggenheim Museum, the university has taken a principled stance. “[The RIAA] have so many lawyers that they can afford to send frivolous subpoenas right and left, and the mere threat to do so has caused some universities to cave right away,” said Ippolito, an expert on digital media.
On Thursday, Ippolito sent a letter to the university system urging administrators not to reveal students’ identities to the RIAA. Ippolito said the practice of subpoenaing universities won’t necessarily hold water in court, and was critical of the RIAA’s newest tactics with colleges, a policy he called “mafia-like.”
“They want to bully universities into exposing students and also bully students directly into signing onto a discount,” Ippolito said. “There’s no legal process and that’s the end of the story.”