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Bill St. Arnaud is a consultant and research engineer who works with clients around the world on a variety of subjects such as next generation Internet networks and developing practical solutions to reduce CO2 emissions such as free broadband and dynamic charging of eVehicles. He is an author of many papers and articles on these topics and is a frequent guest speaker. For more details on my research interests see

Monday, June 11, 2007

Copyright Silliness on Campus

[Some excerpts from Washington Post article posted on Dave Farber's IPer list-- BSA]


Copyright Silliness on Campus
By Fred von Lohmann
Wednesday, June 6, 2007; A23

As universities are pressured to punish students and install
expensive "filtering" technologies to monitor their computer
networks, the entertainment industry has ramped up its student
shakedown campaign. The Recording Industry Association of America has
targeted more than 1,600 individual students in the past four months,
demanding that each pay $3,000 for file-sharing transgressions or
face a federal lawsuit. In total, the music and movie industries have
brought more than 20,000 federal lawsuits against individual
Americans in the past three years.

History is sure to judge harshly everyone responsible for this absurd
state of affairs. Our universities have far better things to spend
money on than bullying students. Artists deserve to be fairly
compensated, but are we really prepared to sue and expel every
college student who has made an illegal copy? No one who takes
privacy and civil liberties seriously can believe that the
installation of surveillance technologies on university computer
networks is a sensible solution.

It's not an effective solution, either. Short of appointing a
copyright hall monitor for every dorm room, there is no way digital
copying will be meaningfully reduced. Technical efforts to block file-
sharing will be met with clever countermeasures from sharp computer
science majors. Even if students were completely cut off from the
Internet, they would continue to copy CDs, swap hard drives and pool
their laptops.

Already, a hard drive capable of storing more than 80,000 songs can
be had for $100. Blank DVDs, each capable of holding more than a
first-generation iPod, now sell for a quarter apiece. Students are
going to copy what they want, when they want, from whom they want.

So universities can't stop file-sharing. But they can still help
artists get paid for it. How? By putting some cash on the bar.

Universities already pay blanket fees so that student a cappella
groups can perform on campus, and they also pay for cable TV
subscriptions and site licenses for software. By the same token, they
could collect a reasonable amount from their students for "all you
can eat" downloading.

The recording industry is already willing to offer unlimited
downloads with subscription plans for $10 to $15 per month through
services such as Napster and Rhapsody. But these services have been a
failure on campuses, for a number of reasons, including these: They
don't work with the iPod, they cause downloaded music to "expire"
after students leave the school, and they don't include all the music
students want.

The only solution is a blanket license that permits students to get
unrestricted music and movies from sources of their choosing.

At its heart, this is a fight about money, not about morality. We
should have the universities collect the cash, pay it to the
entertainment industry and let the students do what they are going to
do anyway. In exchange, the entertainment industry should call off
the lawyers and lobbyists, leaving our nation's universities to focus
on the real challenges facing America's next generation of leaders.