Friday, November 28, 2008

Are Copyright Violationson the Rise?

Lately I have had to deal with more copyright takedown requests than ever before. In fact, at the start of 2008 I had not received a single takedown notice for my University in the whole time that I have worked here. Compare that to this semester (August to Present) where I have received 10. However, I still must admit that 10 takedown requests is small potatoes compared to some other schools out there.

I suspect that the primary reason that my University receives so few takedown requests is that we have outsourced the Internet service in our residence halls to a local ISP. I suspect that most of the student downloading happens in the residence halls. This is probably good for the students as well as the University. It seems to me that if legislation keeps moving in the direction that is has been going then University students wont have the same legal protection as customers of other ISPs. For example, there was a lot of lobbying going on when the Higher Education Opportunity Act reauthorization was being considered in congress. You can bet that the RIAA was trying to force Universities to block file sharing and acadmically punish file sharers in some way (in addition to whatever civil and criminal penalties may apply). Now they have successfully pushed a law in Tennessee that will require schools to police their networks for copyright violators. All of these measures will cost money, and I think that one way to easily avoid some of the cost is for other schools to start offloading the Internet service in their residence halls to other companies.

So there is my hypothesis: schools that outsource the Internet service in the res halls receive fewer copyright takedown notices than schools that do not. I guess the next step would be to try to find other schools that follow our practice. If I ever hear from anyone, I'll update this post.

I'd like to know what other schools do when they receive takedown notices. Right now we're locking out the Active Directory accounts of the student when we get a takedown notice. Then we have the student come talk to us in IT and have them sign a form indicating that they are aware of the University policies regarding file sharing and that illegal file sharing may also result in civil or criminal action. The form does not require them to admit any guilt nor does it indicate any promise not to do it again. After they sign the form we turn their account back on and tell them that if they get caught again they will have to deal with our Student Affairs department. This arrangement seems to be working well for us. We don't end up with a ton of students on academic probation and it doesn't create an incredible workload for any of us. There are some other issues that we need to work out though, such as what we're going to do if we get any Early Settlement Letters from the RIAA. If you've got a moment, please share your thoughts.

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