According to an increasing number of administrators and IT chiefs at public universities in U.S., the music industry’s pursuit of students indicted of illegal file sharing is cutting into their faculty’s work day. It seems that lately, some universities have refused to send “pre-litigation” letters to students proposing them a settlement out-of-court with the RIAA.
“This is between the recording industry and the people who may be violating their copyrights,” said Brian Rust, marketing manager of the University of Wisconsin at Madison’s Department of Information Technology, which has been witnessing a constant growth of the number of subpoenas and “cease-and-desist” notices forwarded from RIAA officials in recent years. “But public institutions are an easy target. We’re very transparent about access to our network.”
Although the recording industry has relied on the higher education’s support in its battle against illegal file sharing, according to university officials, over the last year some considerable tension has built up.
One of the issues that emerged from this “partnership” regards filtering or monitoring technologies. Since they are indispensable to detecting the occurrence of illegal downloads many colleges found themselves forced to hire people full-time just to identify the IP addresses of network users who might have infringed copyright laws, search if those offenders are still enrolled in the university, and make sure the alleged infringers get warned that the RIAA is after them. After the recording industry has intensively lobbied for better network monitoring the software has been installed at campuses nationwide.
Denise Stephens, vice provost for information services and chief information officer at the University of Kansas, pointed out to this practice of monitoring students for online piracy as losing touch with the responsibility and duty of an university. Further on, Stephens ensured that Kansas’ new policy is not directed against the RIAA and that the college still keeps “a zero-tolerance file sharing policy,” which will have any student found guilty of illegal file sharing deprived of his or her network access.
“We really had to make a decision philosophically about what our role was in this whole issue,” said Stephens, who also has seen a rise in RIAA “cease-and-desist” notices. “We’d be acting as a go-between for an external party seeking to get information about our students. … We decided that was not our role.”
(photo credit – http://clumpy.blogspot.com)