Lost Under the Streetlight

Kenneth C. Green, Campus Technology, Nov 04, 2004
Commentary by Stephen Downes

The author argues that colleges and universities should not be held responsible for file sharing. The case, if you will, seems pretty clear cut: "the RIAA reports that just 191 of the 5,441 individuals who have been the named targets of RIAA P2P lawsuits over the past few years are based on college campuses, using campus networks." He asks, "how long before the media industries and members of Congress focus their public comments and copyright efforts on the consumer ISPs?" The answer is, of course, as soon as the RIAA can get the softer targets - the colleges and universities - to comply. Having established a precedent, it becomes much easier to mount a wider campaign. So it's not just a numbers game: colleges and universities will continue to be targeted because they're the thin edge of the wedge, the segment of internet service provider most likely to abandon any defense of user rights.

CRLF

If you see this analysis as overly cynical, read between the lines of this case, reported today. Appalachian State University was issued a subpoena from the RIAA to obtain identifying information about the users of the particular machines. As an educational institution, Appalachian State is subject to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which makes students’ educational records confidential. But the university "will cooperate as we should in any litigation matter like this... [it] will comply with the subpoena." Just like that.

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