Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Sharp rise in copyright complaints from a single violation

OK, I try to not be a conspiracy theorist kind of guy, but I also have very little trust in the RIAA or the MPAA. After all, if they had their way I would never have a backup copy of any of the music that I buy and I wouldn't be able to watch movies or listen to digital music on my linux machine. I will admit that this is far fetched, but I also wouldn't put it past them.

Back in November of 2008 the RIAA managed to convince the legislature and governor of Tennessee to sign into a law a bill that requires Tennessee state Universities to filter file sharing traffic if they receive more than 50 DMCA complaints in a year. You can read about it here and here. Shockingly, around the same time that the law was getting passed, the number of DMCA complaints that my university received jumped tremendously. For all of 2008 up to August we received 3 DMCA complaints. Then in the fall semester (right around the time this bill was becoming law in Tennessee) we got 13. We also got about 13 for the spring semester of 2009.

I assumed that they were stepping up the search for infringers so they could meet their 50 DMCA notices in Tennessee and also start putting pressure on other states to do the same thing. However, they may not have been impressed with the numbers they're putting up because now I'm starting to see an unusual number of DMCA complaints for the same infringement.

During a period of time ranging from September 2 to September 4th a student shared a movie illegally over bittorrent. This week the DMCA takedown requests came in and right now I'm up to five complaints and counting for this single violation. I wonder if I were in Tennessee if I would be 10% closer to having to spend money of Internet filtering software or if they would decide to count this as one infraction. My guess is that they will choose the first option. I would normally discount this kind of behavior because I assume that a computer looks for this stuff and it isn't smart enough to know that it has reported the same file sharing activity five times. But this is the RIAA we're talking about, and it has never happened before. So I'm not so quick to give the benefit of doubt. I wonder what other universities are seeing.

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