Universities Struggling To Deal With Law Requiring Them To Fight File Sharing

from the what-a-waste dept

For years, Hollywood pushed Congress to pass laws that would hold colleges and universities responsible for cracking down on unauthorized file sharing that happened on campus. The threat was that if universities didn't stop file sharing, Congress could withold federal financial aid funds from students. That's quite a big stick. What justified it? Well, the MPAA put out a report claiming that 44% of "losses" from file sharing came from college campuses. Of course, the number (like so many out of entertainment industry lobbyists) was entirely made up. In fact, it was so ridiculous that even the MPAA came out and publicly admitted the numbers were bogus and apologized!

You would think, after that, Congress would think twice about passing a law that was written based on such bogus numbers. Think again. Congress had no problem rushing it through and getting it signed by the President.

So now what's happening? Well, universities and colleges are wasting a ton of time, money and effort to try to comply (found via Michael Scott, who notes, "what a waste of resources."). The article talks about how universities feel punished for something that isn't even a problem:
"We have not received one complaint about one student. Yet now we have to go out and incur the cost to solve a problem that we didn't really have.... Tying actually capital and operating dollars to it in this economy to solve a problem we don't really have at our scale has been an issue."
Thanks, Hollywood and all those politicians who approved this. Now you're taking away important resources from our educational institutions for a problem that isn't even a problem.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 19th, 2009 @ 10:29am

    You sound surprised...

    "Thanks, Hollywood and all those politicians who approved this. Now you're taking away important resources from our educational institutions for a problem that isn't even a problem."

    You sound surprised that we are enacting policy on false pretenses that were pushed by 3rd parties w/a conflict of interest.

    What company did that first Iraqi oil contract go to again?

     

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    Eric (profile), Jun 19th, 2009 @ 11:00am

    Sneakernet

    So what's to prevent a student walking down the hallway with a 1TB external hard drive and letting everyone copy his MP3s?

    Dr. E

     

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    Noah Buddy (profile), Jun 19th, 2009 @ 11:01am

    Don't worry, universities will just raise tuition.... again.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2009 @ 11:10am

      Re:

      I lol'd because it's true. Thank you Noah

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2009 @ 11:34am

      Re:

      So... it's OK that this law passed because it'll mean fewer Americans can afford higher education? i'm not sure what your point is.

       

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      Anon, Jun 19th, 2009 @ 11:46am

      Re:

      They raise tuition, students borrow more, file sharing still happens, students can't get tuition money, universities spend more to fix the "Problem" and raise tuition... Nope this won't be a problem

       

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    C. Patel, Jun 19th, 2009 @ 11:10am

    Piracy increases production @ universities

    Okay, so the subject might be a pretty big assumption but this is going on personal experience from my own college. The networking/IT staff at my college is paradoxically anal and apathetic when it comes to the whole piracy issue. We set up a file-sharing system within our campus' dorms so people can grab whatever they need to from people on campus --- movies, music, ebooks, software, etc. --- without having to use up bandwidth that the college itself could use towards more beneficial stuff for both faculty and students. And we're not the only college that does this.

    Hell, one of the chief IT staff members at the school even gave the okay for this whole operation ran by a small group of people. The benefits outweigh the risk in the majority of the school's opinion. If they were to take the file sharing system down, productivity of not only the students but the faculty and administration would go down as well. Where's a pirate's thanks in all this? No where to be seen. Taking all this crap for the sake of education? Bug off.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2009 @ 11:31am

      Re: Piracy increases production @ universities

      Which brings the problem - your university is teaching you to steal... umm, sorry, infringe with impunity.

      That is terrible. What university is it? I am sure the RIAA people who read this blog would love to know.

       

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        Trevlac, Jun 19th, 2009 @ 3:33pm

        Re: Re: Piracy increases production @ universities

        You're an idiot and I wanted you to know, because you obviously don't. No need for thanks.

         

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    Steve R. (profile), Jun 19th, 2009 @ 11:50am

    So Wrong

    This is fundamentally wrong.

    First, why should third parties be required, by law, to protect a company's business model. It's the company's responsibility to implement and protect a workable business model.

    Second, implementing this private police force activity will cost the university money. Will the MPAA and the RIAA be providing their fair share of the expense of supporting this police force? If not, isn't the RIAA and the MPAA imposing a financial burden on the students who pay the tuition. So even if a student does not infringe, he or she is forced to pay to protect a company's revenue stream.

    Third, LIABILITY. It will happen, some student gets wrongly accused, convicted, and fined without due process and suffers some sort of irreparable harm. The student sues the University and the University looses big time. Meanwhile the executives at the RIAA and the MPAA watch from the sidelines while enjoying their luxury summer palaces saying that this miscarriage of justice is not their responsibility or fault.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2009 @ 12:09pm

      Re: So Wrong

      This isn't about "protecting a business model." It's about stopping theft. You wouldn't let a bank robber run by you with an armload full of cash, would you? Theft affects everyone, and we all have to do our part to stop theft.

       

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        Sneeje (profile), Jun 19th, 2009 @ 12:20pm

        Re: Re: So Wrong

        Except it's not theft, it's infringement. Theft involves physical goods.

        And by the way, how many other things do you think universities should be "doing their part to stop"? There's an obesity problem in America and college cafeterias are not known for their health food, perhaps universities should sink money into doing their part with that? We all need to do our part (it takes a village) to raise moral beings, perhaps universities ought to work on that too.

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2009 @ 12:21pm

        Re: Re: So Wrong

        It is not "theft." It is copyright infringement. There's a universe of difference between the two things. Theft deprives someone of their property. Copyright infringement is a violation of a deal society makes with artists. Corporations violate their part of this deal as routinely and eagerly as anybody sharing with their friends.

        It's still illegal, but let's call it what it actually is.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2009 @ 12:27pm

          Re: Re: Re: So Wrong

          "It is not "theft." It is copyright infringement. There's a universe of difference between the two things."

          A universe of difference? this is the big lie of file sharing. You aren't stealing, you are just committing a minor technical violation of a seldom enforced part of the copyright law. BS.

          If you have something you didn't pay for, then you stole it. You can call it infringing or sharing or whatever, but your momma will tell you, whatever you have that you didn't pay for you stole.

          When you wake up and realize that simple fact, it is much, much harder to justify all the support that file sharing gets.

           

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            Sneeje (profile), Jun 19th, 2009 @ 12:37pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: So Wrong

            Well, from a moral perspective, I agree with you, but in terms of what "society" and therefore universities should do about it, it makes a *huge* difference.

            When the files are shared, two things are not automatically true: a) the artist/producer loses a sale, and b) the provider/receiver of the file is not authorized to share the files.

            Studies have shown that heavy file sharers actually buy more product. Given that, and the above falsehoods, is it really worth forcing universities to spend money on this?

             

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            Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2009 @ 12:46pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: So Wrong

            You're talking morals, I'm talking the law. We disagree on the ethics of the situation, that's fine. The law is pretty objective on this count, though. Each activity breaks a different law, ergo they are different crimes.

            "If you have something you didn't pay for, then you stole it."

            This, of course, is where we differ ethically. I don't pay for a lot of things I never stole, even you would agree with this.

             

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              Sneeje (profile), Jun 19th, 2009 @ 12:52pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: So Wrong

              To be clear, it doesn't break the law per se, infringement is a civil issue, which again, is what makes this so different.

              Ethically/morally, whatever, yes I do agree with you.

               

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              Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2009 @ 1:27pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: So Wrong

              The only things that you didn't pay for that you also didn't steal are things given to you for free. If you just took them, you stole them.

              Music has a price. if you didn't pay the price, well, how did you get it? Did it magically appear in front of you? Nope. You went and got it. You didn't pay. Therefore... well, you can figure out the rest.

              yes, it is a moral issue, and a legal one. When we become numb to the idea of "petty theft", it isn't long before we become numb to pretty much all the other crime.

               

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                Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 19th, 2009 @ 1:39pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: So Wrong

                "The only things that you didn't pay for that you also didn't steal are things given to you for free. If you just took them, you stole them."

                I almost agree, but that's not what you originally said, and I think your original statement was telling of the attitude you actually have. Steal has a specific definition, as does infringement. Are they different? Absolutely, pretending they aren't is disingenous, as there are very physical, very important differences. Are they both wrong by most definitions of morality? Nearly absolutely, and only nearly because questions of morality are so culturally relative. Does one do more harm than the other? Definitely, hence the reason one is a criminal matter, and the other civil.

                "Music has a price."

                False premise. Not ALL music has a price. Over-generalizations lose you credibility. There are all kinds of free shows, free downloads, etc.

                "yes, it is a moral issue, and a legal one."

                True, to you and I. But the music industry ought not be concerned with morality. They're job is to make money. If the industry could make more money utilizing FREE! concepts, who cares about morality? Listening to music label executives, particularly any that had any part of Jazz/Blues music years ago, makes the hair stand up on my neck. Some of the abuses they carried out against their "client" artists were LEGENDARY.

                 

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                Sneeje (profile), Jun 19th, 2009 @ 1:42pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: So Wrong

                Except that not all file sharing is "petty theft" or stealing or infringement. So, exactly what is the university to do?

                 

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                Xanthir, FCD (profile), Jun 19th, 2009 @ 2:09pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: So Wrong

                The only things that you didn't pay for that you also didn't steal are things given to you for free. If you just took them, you stole them.

                Still not true. I wasn't 'given' the air I breathe. This is a technical issue, however. The music *was* given to me for free, by people who bought that music with their hard-earned money.

                Music has a price. if you didn't pay the price, well, how did you get it? Did it magically appear in front of you? Nope. You went and got it. You didn't pay. Therefore... well, you can figure out the rest.

                Are you implying that I broke into the artist's home (or hacked into their private servers) and stole their music? That would be wrong in several ways. Someone *shared* their music with me, of their own free will. They either bought the music, or received it from someone else sharing with them.

                So, yes, the music *was* given to me at no charge. That's what sharing is all about. You learned all about this in kindergarten, try and keep up.

                yes, it is a moral issue, and a legal one. When we become numb to the idea of "petty theft", it isn't long before we become numb to pretty much all the other crime.

                It is indeed a moral issue. Sharing with others is a moral good. Telling someone else they aren't allowed to share what they legitimately bought is a moral wrong. When we become numb to the idea of "sharing with others", it isn't long before we become numb to pretty much all other acts of charity and kindness.

                The legal aspect is indeed slightly inconvenient at the moment, but law moves slower than culture. It'll change in time, as the current set of laws were designed to protect the little guy from corrupt publishers; no one thought in their wildest dreams that one day the little guy could publish as well or better than the big guys, and the corrupt publishers would be able to twist the law around to use as a weapon against the little guy. We all do our part to raise the cultural consciousness surrounding this issue to ensure that the law gets restored to benefit the little guy again.

                (As a sidenote, the idea that file-sharing is a gateway drug to raping and murdering is pretty much the most hilarious fucking thing I've ever heard.)

                 

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            Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 19th, 2009 @ 12:55pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: So Wrong

            "If you have something you didn't pay for, then you stole it. You can call it infringing or sharing or whatever, but your momma will tell you, whatever you have that you didn't pay for you stole."

            Not MY mama, my friend. But here are some things she DID say:

            1. The best things in life are free (refutes the theory that ANYTHING you have that you didn't pay for you must have stolen)
            2. Money can't buy you love (refutes the idea that money is the all encompassing motivator)
            3. Sharing is caring (refutes the idea that sharing something I have with another human being is a bad/immoral thing)
            4. Anything worth having is worth working for (refutes the idea that people or companies should be valued if they haven't actually PRODUCED anything)
            5. Hard work will pay off in the end (refutes the idea that people/companies should be perpetually paid without perpetually working, also refutes hand-me-down and/or legacy patents/IP rights)

            You would do well to listen to my mama, Colonel Sanders.

             

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            CastorTroy-Libertarian, Jun 19th, 2009 @ 1:13pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: So Wrong

            I didnt pay for air, but im pretty sure i didnt steal it,

             

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              Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 19th, 2009 @ 1:16pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: So Wrong

              I have my father's old catcher's glove, which I treasure as he played minor league ball and taught me the game. I did not pay for it.

               

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            CrushU, Jun 19th, 2009 @ 5:07pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: So Wrong

            YOU STOLE THAT AIR YOU'RE BREATHING!! GIVE IT BACK!!!

            -- Brought to you by the Atmosphere Industry Artists' Association.

             

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            Ryan, Jun 20th, 2009 @ 12:34pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: So Wrong

            So when a robber runs by your house with a wad of cash, should you be held responsible?

            How about when walmart buys a toy for 1 cent, and sells it for a dollar, and you have no way to JUST give a cent to the producer, is it wrong to steal it if you already support the producer. Music is the same way in that the creator makes nothing.

            The way the RIAA has it, the creator makes nothing. So i went to a linkin park concert, paid my $60 in tickets and bought 2 T-shirts. Then, I went home and pirated the music. You call that stealing? Id call it getting what I pay for. I bet you are all for the RIAA getting cuts of concert and radio too. Thats just sick.

             

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        CastorTroy-Libertarian, Jun 19th, 2009 @ 1:10pm

        Re: Re: So Wrong

        RIAA employee, you can ignore

         

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        Steve R. (profile), Jun 19th, 2009 @ 6:17pm

        Re: Re: So Wrong

        For the sake of argument, lets assume this is about stopping theft.

        First, why should I be respect a law that takes away some of my rights and gives additional rights to someone else? The law should provide a level playing field that protects everyone.

        Second, how far can a law go in "protecting" someone's property? Are companies allowed to have jack booted thugs invade your home at their will to "investigate" if you may be using a product in a manner inconsistent with how the company says is an acceptable use. How about allowing store owners to strip search each customer as they leave the store.

        Third, can you impose a law that requires a third person, who is a "bystander" to forcefully intervene to protect Person A from Person B? Or to put it this way; hypothetically, you are on your way to work and I am going to a movie. I stop you and say that according to this new law I require that you to stand here and protect my car while I am in the movie. Well if you don't go to work, you don't get paid, you may even get fired. So are you willing to sacrifice your time and money to protect Person A? I don't think so.

        Fourth, we also need to ask the question as to whether Person A even has a legitimate ownership interest to the property in question. It is quite possible that I could be asking you in my hypothetical example to protect a stolen car. Third disinterested parties are not in a position to determine who is or who is not stealing. So how can we demand that a disinterest third party protect the interest of Person A over Person B?

        It is the responsibility of Person A to protect their own property. If he/she can't too bad.

         

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      Hephaestus (profile), Jun 22nd, 2009 @ 6:33am

      Re: So Wrong

      lets set up the CMAA to bill the RIAA and MPAA for these services. Get a bunch of universities to join. Then bill the RIAA and MPAA and keep all the money for ourselves because we cant find the Univesities that we represent.....

      ..... turn about ... fair play .... BIG OL GRIN

      Hephaestus Chairman and CEO CMAA
      (College Music Association of America)

       

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    Anon. Gov. Emp., Jun 19th, 2009 @ 12:02pm

    More going on here deserving investigation....

    Mike,

    I recommend running a FOIA on GAO to find the P2P University audit job that was killed by Congress when the poll results came back unfavorable to the content industry. There are some evil things happening in this area and deserve more investigation. Why was the GAO investigation suddenly killed on this? It was a job that was going on for more than 2 years that suddenly disappeared. If you need me to email you just post under this...but I just gave you a big lead on something you need to see to believe...someone please get these records public...

     

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      Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 19th, 2009 @ 12:16pm

      Re: More going on here deserving investigation....

      I am erect with anticipation...

       

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 19th, 2009 @ 12:43pm

      Re: More going on here deserving investigation....

      I recommend running a FOIA on GAO to find the P2P University audit job that was killed by Congress when the poll results came back unfavorable to the content industry. There are some evil things happening in this area and deserve more investigation. Why was the GAO investigation suddenly killed on this? It was a job that was going on for more than 2 years that suddenly disappeared. If you need me to email you just post under this...but I just gave you a big lead on something you need to see to believe...someone please get these records public...

      Feel free to contact us via the feedback form:

      http://www.techdirt.com/contact.php

       

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    identicon
    Logo, Jun 19th, 2009 @ 1:25pm

    At least these counter measures have a beneficial side effect. It should do nicely to create some more competent computer engineers (as they learn to bypass these systems) and some lawyers and politicians with reasonable views on copyright (as they get angry at the overbearing restrictions sapping away from their education).

     

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    al, Jun 19th, 2009 @ 2:37pm

    re:so wrong

    music is given away 24 hours a day 7 days a week 365+ days a year...100% legal and available to everyone. it's called a "RADIO".. if i wish to listen to music it is my choice what media i use.. the internet is today's radio... file sharing is an artists best promotion of the work they create . it has been proven repeatedly that file sharing leads to more sales not less and a more widespread recognition of talent than any other media. times change,live with it....

     

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    Dan, Jun 20th, 2009 @ 12:03am

    Congressmen don't think. Why should when they have friendly lobbyists to do that for them. So much graft and so little time, can't be bothered by details. I'm late for a meeting with a consultant ( my whore ), gotta run.

     

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    RD, Jun 20th, 2009 @ 12:04pm

    Collossal 'Tard

    "If you have something you didn't pay for, then you stole it."

    So you are saying you are guilty of theft then? Because, I'm pretty sure you didnt pay for everything you got from your parents while growing up, so you are a repeate criminal of 18-odd years.

    Dont agree? Then dont make ridiculous statements that completely flout reality and crawl back to your industry masters pockets.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 20th, 2009 @ 5:43pm

    What I don't understand is this: The traffic shaping tools are already available, it is easy enough (technology wise) to kill of torrent traffic (internal and external), and the costs aren't out there - if anything, the schools might lower their overall bandwidth usage and require less network buildout to make their stuff run.

    Why is this such a major issue? The story talks about an atypical university that apparently has had no issues with file sharing - but what would happen if the story was about, I dunno, Cal-State or any of the other major universities that are cesspools of copyright violations. I guess it's easy to slam the RIAA but really, really, hard to slam writers who use non-typical situations to try to make things look different from reality.

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2009 @ 3:25pm

      Re:

      Killing all torrent traffic is not just preventing copyright infringement, it is preventing many legitimate uses of content delivery through torrents. For one good example see http://torrent.fedoraproject.org/ which serves to distribute the free operating system through torrents and is a major cost savings to the project because willing participants donate bandwidth to support the project.

      Blocking torrent traffic blindly would be an ignorant misuse of tools with detrimental side effects, not a simply deployment of available tools to fix a real problem.

       

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2009 @ 7:18pm

        Re: Re:

        What percentage of torrent traffic is legal? Answer: Not much. You can point at a few things, but really, not much.

        Commercial companies should just offer downloads and pay the costs to do it.

        "For one good example see http://torrent.fedoraproject.org/ which serves to distribute the free operating system through torrents and is a major cost savings to the project because willing participants donate bandwidth to support the project."

        They can donate a few dollars and buy some bandwidth instead. No big deal (and the downloads would be much faster).

        Sorry, but your argument fails - plus how many university students happen to need a copy of fedora right now?

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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