LSU Starts Fining Students For File Sharing; But Seems Quite Confused About It

from the you-said-what-now? dept

P2P Blog points us to the news that Louisiana State University (LSU) is starting a program whereby it will fine students $50 for unauthorized file sharing. However, the quotes from the university representative seem quite confusing and oftentimes flat out incorrect. The reporter who wrote the article seems equally confused. Nowhere is it explained exactly how it will be determined that someone is actually sharing an unauthorized piece of work, or if there is any sort of actual due process involved at all. Instead, the school seems to think that any accusation means guilt automatically. They also claim, oddly, that the fines are "in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act." Please, someone, point out to me where it says in the DMCA that your ISP can fine you based on what it thinks you may have done wrong?

The LSU spokesperson, oddly claims that the RIAA's "subpoena" costs $4,000, but that's not true. What she means (I think) is that the RIAA often offers up a "we won't sue you settlement at $4,000. That has nothing to do with the subpoena at all. Even more confusing, she claims that the settlement offer is for the RIAA's "time":
"Once they get a subpoena, they say 'OK, person X, you've done this, now that's $4,000 for our time.' And you have 28 days or something ridiculous to pay it. If you don't pay it, the fine goes up from there."
That's simply not true. First of all, the $4,000 is just a settlement offer. It's not for their time, and it's not a fine. The way she says it "goes up from there" makes it sound as if it's a court granted fine that just keeps going up until you settle. That's not true. Until a court says you need to pay, you don't need to pay. It is an option to get the RIAA to leave you alone, but the RIAA doesn't get to just fine you. But, the LSU folks don't seem to get that. The author of the article doesn't seem to get it either, at one point discussing how the RIAA "has the legal authority to take offenders to court" -- um... anyone has the legal authority to take others to court in civil cases -- and then confuses the civil infringement claims with criminal infringement, suggesting (incorrectly) that if the RIAA takes you to court, you could get "five years in prison." You can only get jailtime in a criminal lawsuit, and, no, thankfully (not yet) the RIAA does not have the legal authority to charge you in criminal court.

The folks at LSU also seem quite confused about technology:
"When you transfer files, they're called packets, and these packets can be identified as to what they are. Usually it's through things like BitTorrent, or through LimeWire, or any other things that are shareware, where people put up stuff illegally or make it available illegally."
Oh, and on top of that, apparently some universities have magically figured out how to stop file sharing. Wish I knew how:
"But there are places that have actually shut off the ability to do any sharing of files because they were getting so many complaints from the RIAA."
And these are the folks who want to start fining people $50 for file sharing, when they don't even seem to understand the law or the technology involved? That's going to go over well...


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 8:26am

    "due process"

    your commentary leaves out the fact that the only reason there's any due process in this is because LSU is a government organization (a publicly funded school) and the government is required to give you due process.

    nothing requires AT&T, Comcast, or Verizon to give you due process. if they really wanted, they could fine you $10,000 for every violation notice they received identifying you as long as you agreed in the ToS. of course, even if private ISPs were only charging $50, you know it'd end up on the radar of some politician.

    as for the rest of your analysis, it's generally correct. the big filtering software is Audible Magic's Copysense, and it simply doesn't work.

     

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    lavi d (profile), Jul 20th, 2009 @ 8:36am

    I thought it was just the students who were supposed to be on drugs.

     

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    TPBer, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 8:39am

    Hey you...

    moron in charge of this program, that was obviously instituted by a digital invalid, how are you going to stop those of us who log onto your wifi?

    I'll just use someone else's credentials and what are you going to do, except look at each other with a stupid expression.

     

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    JoeEsq, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 8:41am

    Sounds like LSU needs the services of a good technology attorney.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jul 20th, 2009 @ 8:48am

    New Rule

    If you, the supposed authority handing out fines, can't beat the "offender" in terms of total score on a 100 question quiz on the actual technology they are supposed to have illegitamately used, you don't get to fine them.

    Because when I hear things like ""But there are places that have actually shut off the ability to do any sharing of files because they were getting so many complaints from the RIAA."" I immediately start slapping my forehead and nashing my teeth, while in my mind the sound of pandemonium and 300 monkeys shitting themselves play on loop until I go pound another double-cup of coffee.

    If others have shut off filesharing (which I can gurantee you they haven't), then FUCKING DO THAT AND LEAVE EVERYONE ELSE ALONE!!!! That way the REAL illegal filesharers can just go further underground and continue sharing while you pat yourselves on the back and the RIAA figures out ANOTHER way and reason to fine you.

    Idiots.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 8:51am

    And we allow these idiots to teach our children ?

     

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    Marcus Carab (profile), Jul 20th, 2009 @ 8:54am

    File sharing software = shareware?
    Tee-hee...

     

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    Rosedale (profile), Jul 20th, 2009 @ 8:55am

    Their CS department must be horrified.

    Either their CS department is worthless or they are horrified at this point. Their Law school should be pretty mortified as well. Glad I am not getting a degree from there in either field.

     

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    AJ, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 8:55am

    Supply and Demand

    So they start charging the students in error, the students get pissed and raise all kinds of hell. The school tries to defend its position, then looks stupid and tries to shut up the student, and/or points the finger at the AA’s (Streisand effect in full swing). Then the school starts loosing money and decides that in may be in their best interest to actually have some kind of real proof that the file the student is sharing is illegal, and that the student in question is the person doing the actual sharing. Figures out how much it’s going to cost them all combined, and then tells the AA’s to get undeniable proof, or go fly a kite. I thought we had already been thru all this nonsense.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 8:58am

    I say let LSU think they are doing something right. The students will be fine and dandy using the dozens of tools available to swap whatever files they want whenever

     

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    Anonymous Howard, Cowering, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 9:04am

    @ New Rule - Dark Helmet

    Love your posts. The monkeys were a nice, evocative mental image.

    Gnash your teeth, though, please (after your coffee, of course, which should also make your guarantee better). The thought of you making dentition into a small defunct automobile is weirdly disturbing.
    ===
    @ AC, above:

    Allow? It's a state school - Louisanians pay taxes so they can be idiots. Although, in all fairness to the actual teaching faculty at LSU, these are probably non-academic administrative idiots with fancy advanced idiot degrees from some mail-order school in the Seychelles. $700 and you, too, can be Master (or even doctor) of all you survey...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 9:06am

    Re: Their CS department must be horrified.

    Agreed. if I were even from the same city I would be ashamed to admit it, I just hope none of my colleges end up in some article like LSU, my community college easily has some employees dumb-enough for that to happen...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 9:15am

    This is a quote from the school newspaper. I suspect a lot of this is mixed up on the reporter's end. Way to track down a worthy news source.

     

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    Osno (profile), Jul 20th, 2009 @ 9:26am

    If freakonomics is right, file sharing in LSU will raise. First, they are making students aware that they can do it, and next the charge (when found) is relatively low. The next thing that will happen is the MAFIAA suing this students (I really really don't think they'll love the 50 bucks idea). So the students, who thought they had paid for their "crime" will face court charges, and then they'll be really pissed off.

    Oh, and the article is absurd, bla, bla.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 9:34am

    Computer Science department vs bean-counting IT department

    There is a huge difference between the "Computer Science Department" where they teach Computer Science and the IT department that runs the campus computer system. Chances are very good that the person who runs the IT department is good at management (alternately good at kissing the right posteriors) and has limited technical knowledge. It sounds to me like the LSU document was written by someone who had picked up just enough tech terms to be really, really dangerous.

    Oh, and the 4K settlement agreement is pretty much a flat charge because most students don't have the resources to fight it. Who says the RIAA doesn't have a great business model?

     

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    usmcdvldg, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 9:42am

    Re:

    I understand a school newspaper isn't the New york times but f'in Christ.

    It is a university, I'm sure they have editors, I know middle school students that could have put a better article than that together.

    Not to mention the fact the writer, being in a university, SHOULD be surrounded by knowledgeable people that can easily verify and explain the technical and legal aspects of an issue.

    That schoo shoud be EMBARRASSED!

     

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    Michael Witt (profile), Jul 20th, 2009 @ 9:52am

    What's interesting is that they do something similar (I think) at my school, yet no one complains about it (unless they get caught). Michigan Tech assigns each student a static IP address for each MAC address they have registered. So we get nice, distinct, static IPs in our dorms (you have to renew them every semester, but who cares?). That way, if they get a DMCA request from the RIAA/MPAA, they cut off your internet access, and fine you $100. When you pay the $100, your internet access is restored. This is all through a deal with the RIAA/MPAA, in which the settlement amount is lowered to $100, with repeat offenders getting internet access cut off permanently.

    This isn't to say that I agree with it, but it sounds to me like LSU's plan is similar to MTU's, only LSU's policy isn't nearly as clear.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 9:59am

    Re:

    Technically, no. We allow these idiots to set the policies which define the environment in which our children are taught. Administrator != teacher.

     

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  19.  
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    minijedimaster (profile), Jul 20th, 2009 @ 10:00am

    Re:

    And we allow these idiots to teach our children?

    That's the real tragedy here. We prop up things like college degrees and professors in our society as if they're the most important thing in the world. That is until you realize that most are morons such as is exampled here.

     

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  20.  
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    minijedimaster (profile), Jul 20th, 2009 @ 10:11am

    Re:

    So anyone at MSU can be charged $100 just for being accused of file sharing copyrighted material? Seems to me a good racket to get in on. Find the block of IP's that the students are assigned, start writing bogus letters that say this IP at this time bla bla bla was sharing and make a $100 bucks off of it. Rinse/repeat ala 20,000 times per year.

     

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  21.  
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    Rosedale (profile), Jul 20th, 2009 @ 10:12am

    Re:

    If that is really happening at MTU than that may be far worse than what is happening here. I would have serious problems if I went to that school and needed to pay $100 to get my internet back for a mere DMCA notification. It is the educational equivalent to 3 strikes. So glad I go to school in Boston.

     

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  22.  
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    Rosedale (profile), Jul 20th, 2009 @ 10:15am

    Re: Computer Science department vs bean-counting IT department

    Indeed there is a huge difference between the teaching departments and the hired pay. But the CS department can and should step in to clarify the blatant misinformation. Which is why I said they are either incompetent or mortified. If it is the latter than it is excusable and all things should be cleared up in short order. Same goes for their legal school.

     

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  23.  
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    Silent Coward, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 10:26am

    Re: "due process"

    AT&T, Comcast, or Verizon, etc cannot impose a fine on you. They do not have the authority to do so. What they can do is try to sue you and claim 10k worth of damages. Please, its time to be a silent coward.

    "nothing requires AT&T, Comcast, or Verizon to give you due process." Did you think before you spewed that? So they are above the law then? AC, do you work for the RIAA, Comcast, Verizon, etc?

    "they could fine you $10,000 for every violation notice" Again did you think? If Verizon gets 10 notices claiming I was sharing from the RIAA, by your logic, I could then be fined 100 k? They can just make up arbitrary numbers? In what universe?

    "as for the rest of your analysis," Like you possess the skills to critique TechDirt's articles.

    AC, I am fining you 10k for a stupid comment, another 10k for a stupid username, and another 10k for S&G.

    Where's my money?

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 11:01am

    Guess what school was awestruck by 'big shot hollywood lawyers' and listened to every word told to them by said lawyers without any objective thinking?

     

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    Anonymous Poster, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 11:03am

    And they call themselves an institute of higher learning.

    What a joke.

     

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  26.  
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    DJ (profile), Jul 20th, 2009 @ 11:09am

    Re: Hey you...

    :::gasp::: You can DO that????

     

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  27.  
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    DJ (profile), Jul 20th, 2009 @ 11:12am

    Re:

    That would require the existence of one. So far, the legal track record shows that there isn't a single attorney out there who knows what technology is, let alone how it works.
    So if you're reading this and you're an attorney who DOES know, please please please please please go slap your colleagues (all of them) upside the head, and get involved.

     

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  28.  
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    DJ (profile), Jul 20th, 2009 @ 11:15am

    Re: Supply and Demand

    "school starts loosing money "

    It's LOSING, not LOOSING. Based on the rest of your grammar I'm sure that was just a typo, but it's a pet peeve of mine so I couldn't let it go.

    /soap box

     

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  29.  
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    Matt, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 11:22am

    Proof of Sharing?

    Apparently we're back to "Making Available" = "Distributing"

    "Thompson said the RIAA monitors ports to see if they have left any music files that belong to the RIAA open to the public."

    I hope some student spoof's his IP to match a printer causing $4000 in fines assessed to some HPLaserJet. It's Not like they (RIAA) havn't done it in the past

     

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  30.  
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    ChrisB (profile), Jul 20th, 2009 @ 11:29am

    Re: Re: "due process"

    "AT&T, Comcast, or Verizon, etc cannot impose a fine on you. They do not have the authority to do so."

    What you missed is the OP said: "as long as you agreed in the ToS [Terms of Service]." A ToS is a binding legal contract. You can say anything you want in a contract (that isn't illegal), and if the other party agrees to it, they are bound by it.

    If you agree to pay $10,000 for every violation notice they receive in your ToS, then yes, you have to pay it. That's why you read the fine print.

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 11:33am

    We are arguing "facts" that the reporter clearly got wrong. You can't hold LSU accountable for any of this, because none of it makes sense. Let's see some corroboration.

     

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  32.  
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    Swede, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 11:36am

    -Yet another WTF!!1

    -WTF?!

    Ten years into this shit, it's not even funny anymore.
    (And no; I won't just wave it off as "Stupid Americans" either... it's the same story worldwide.)

    Tell those morons at LSU that they're beeing ridiculed from as far away as Sweden. (at the wery least)

     

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  33.  
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    Swede, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 11:36am

    -Yet another WTF!!1

    -WTF?!

    Ten years into this shit, it's not even funny anymore.
    (And no; I won't just wave it off as "Stupid Americans" either... it's the same story worldwide.)

    Tell those morons at LSU that they're beeing ridiculed from as far away as Sweden. (at the wery least)

     

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    Steve Steidle (profile), Jul 20th, 2009 @ 11:37am

    Epic News Source

    I'm going to vote along the same lines that this "news source" (i.e. an exceptionally poorly written school newspaper) is an epic fail. I'd want to hear an official statement from LSU before I believe someone who doesn't understand the intertubes at all....

     

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    k1DBLITZ, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 12:02pm

    It is possible...

    I think you guys may be a little misinformed if you think they CANNOT stop file sharing from occurring on their network, though I doubt LSU or any other campus has the resources (ie: time & $$$) to do so.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 12:08pm

    @k1D10Tz: you cannot. Sorry.

     

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  37.  
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    Steve R. (profile), Jul 20th, 2009 @ 12:20pm

    Re: Re: Re: "due process"

    A ToS is a binding legal contract.

     

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  38.  
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    k1DBLITZ, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 12:21pm

    Re:

    Wow. Such clever name calling. Perhaps you should do some research. It IS possible.

     

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  39.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 12:24pm

    Re:

    actually, it is possible, but the only guaranteed way is to cut off all internet access, even doing something like deep packet inspection for anything non-text can be tricked.

     

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  40.  
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    Steve R. (profile), Jul 20th, 2009 @ 12:25pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: "due process"

    OOPs, major mistake. I guess I had better enroll at LSU. What I was responding to was ChrisB's statement that a TOS is a legal contract. The are not necessarily legal and we must stop accepting that a contract is legal simply because a company says it is legal.

     

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  41.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 1:00pm

    My fellow AC is right. If you cut off access to the internet (and assuming you also remove USB ports and specialized equipment like tape recorders), you can avoid copying. Other than that, it's pretty much impossible.

    BTW, I knew you'd like the name ;)

     

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  42.  
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    nobody, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 3:06pm

    packets and shareware? Really???

    I was going to comment on this article, but I've been too busy downloading packets using shareware. WTF?
    How does that chick even have an IT job, much less an IT job that comes with a title? Guess I need to send my resume in to LSU's IT department.

     

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  43.  
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    jared Moya, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 5:01pm

    $50 fine intended to recoup DMCA costs

    Whomever wrote the article is an idiot, the fine is to recoup costs of DMCA notification and education. From the LSU IT Dept.

    "As of August 1, 2009, students implicated in a DMCA copyright violation (and upon verification) will be assessed a $50 fine, charged to the student’s Bursar account. This fine is not intended to generate profit; rather, it provides a mechanism for recovering costs incurred in reviewing and processing DMCA notifications, and funding programs for awareness (e.g., education and ad campaign costs). LSU is not the first institution to charge a fee for copyright violations – several other institutions also charge fees for DMCA violations."

    http://uiswcmsweb.prod.lsu.edu/ITS/ITS_Security/IT_Policies/Federal/DMCA/item611.htm l

     

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  44.  
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    CleverName, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 5:27pm

    Re: Re: Re: "due process"

    A contract can be nullified by the court if it is found to be unconscionable. I believe a large percentage of the TOS "contracts" would fall into this category. IANAL

     

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  45.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 5:30pm

    Re:

    That's funny !

     

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    CleverName, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 5:37pm

    Terminology

    There seems to be confusion between the terms "fine" and "fee". One requires jurisdiction the other simply some sort of agreement. IANAL

     

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    Vatorman, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 5:59pm

    Well

    It's LSU... need I say more?

     

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  48.  
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    Ian L, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 7:31pm

    A few comments

    1. Verizon can charge a fee, not a fine. But if you agree to the TOS and it's held up in court, it can be chaarged, and you gotta pay or you're breaking your side of the contract.
    2. IANAL
    3. You CANNOT stop illegal file sharing without breaking your network. My school slows down torrent file downloads. Solution: download 'em over HTTPS or as text files. My school has everyone behind a firewall, but everyone has a static non-NATed IP address so I've gotten some crazy fast downloads on...wait for it...the 96 KHz versions of Nine Inch Nails' Ghosts album set. Yep, BitTorrent can be legal, folks.
    4. Only dumb kids who should be buying music from iTunes get caught on the whole illegal file sharing thing anyway. Private torrent trackers are rather heavily vetted so you pretty much don't get any *AA moles in there.
    5. Who downloads music anymore, if you indeed have a cushy campus connection to ride on? I only download MP3s (Napster subscription, with BitTorrent as my backup in case the one-time song download fails, which has happened several times over the past week) if I'm going to be out of internet range or if my internet connection is dog slow. At a university, neither is the case...
    6. In terms of "education", universities should simply make students aware of the legal options available that are quite cheap, especially compared with dealing with the *AAs. Lala.com has streamable songs for ten cents apiece (less for albums) and Napster has unlimited streaming and five downloads for $5 per month. Granted, neither service gives you unlimited iPod-able music, but hopefully the new KaZaA service, at $20 per month, will do that.
    7. Either the school newspaper or the IT department don't know what they're talking about. Could very well be either, but if it's the newspaper I'd like to take the reporter and slap them around because they're doing discredit to decent on-cmapus news sources. My school's paper being one of them (I write most of the tech stuff in it...I'll avoid the shameless plug and make you dig through a few layers of links to find out which paper this is because our website needs a little help).

    Guess that's about it. Personally, IF I did do an illegal download and IF that download could've been gotten DRM-free online for a cheap amount, I'm perfectly fine with paying a $50 "You idiot" fee. But I'll bet the false positives in the system will ruin it, and the writers of the article had everything screwed up.

     

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    kendall r, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 10:24pm

    wow...

    I didn't think schools could get stupider. Glad I'm not going to LSU. If you're just simply using Limewire, how are they certain it's copyright infringement? In fact, how can they be sure that any sharing or downloading you do is infringing? Look at the names of the song? Maybe they didn't know, but I could name some outdated 50's song (with no copyright) "Stay High" by Three Six Mafia. How would I be able to prove myself innocent?

     

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  50.  
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    CaptnKidd, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 11:31pm

    Trippin'

    LSU must be on LSD by the sound of that spokesperson

     

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  51.  
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    Sigh!, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 8:41am

    Student newspapers are just that - student newspapers! They are places for learning and making mistakes. They should not be used as a primary source of information about what is going on at LSU. Yes there is a fine in place. No, the spokesperson is not a total moron - she is just written that way.

     

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  52.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 21st, 2009 @ 11:01pm

    Re:

    Student newspapers are just that - student newspapers! They are places for learning and making mistakes. They should not be used as a primary source of information about what is going on at LSU. Yes there is a fine in place. No, the spokesperson is not a total moron - she is just written that way.

    Lemme guess... you attend/work at LSU? How about rather than yelling at us for discussing what was published in a newspaper, you add to it and correct what was wrong? Otherwise, we can only assume that the original report was accurate, and you're just upset about how that makes LSU appear.

     

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  53.  
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    insider, Aug 3rd, 2009 @ 10:39am

    that's LSU

    I work at LSU. Yes, it is that bad. Yes, I completely believe they would do something that stupid. Yes, they do have non-tech people in tech jobs. Run from LSU, run very very fast. They are a sinking ship that is more concerned with their football than with their academics.

     

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


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