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lewis hyde writes:

Dear Berkmanites,

Pat McKiernan sent a note around yesterday alerting us to a Chronicle of Higher
Education discussion to be held at noon tomorrow (Thursday). The announcement
for this is at:

Here is the gist of it:

Last fall the Recording Industry Association of America sent letters to about
700 colleges, announcing that it would soon let students accused of music
piracy settle their claims out of court before it officially filed suit. In
February the trade group made good on its promise: It sent batches of
“pre-litigation notices” to 13 universities and asked those institutions to
pass the messages along to students identified only by their Internet-protocol
numbers. The notices direct recipients to a Web site and a telephone hotline to
which they can pay lump sums to record companies….

Cary H. Sherman, the association’s president, will answer your questions about
the recording industry’s new antipiracy endeavor….


There’s something bothersome in this; what exactly? Well, here is the question
I am sending in:


The recording industry regularly asks colleges to police their students in
regard to copyright infringement. My question has to do with the proper roles
of each institution: Why is it the task of colleges to do this police work,
rather than the police?

Sharing files over the internet is not illegal per se; that depends on what’s in
the file and on what it is being used for. An accusation of music piracy is not
a proof of music piracy: questions of evidence, and of fair use, and of
educational exceptions to infringement come into play.

If colleges “pass along messages” that direct students to “pay lump sums to
record companies,” colleges become an arm of the recording industry, bypassing
their educational role (teaching about fair use, for example) and bypassing due
process, if in fact there is a criminal charge to be made.

For these reasons I believe that colleges should decline this RIAA request. How
would Mr. Sherman respond to the background assumption here, that the industry,
the colleges, and law enforcement are distinct institutions, and that there is
good reason to keep their separate roles clear?


thank you lewis.

i spoke at the user-generated-content conference convening at american university law school in d.c. to the group that did the work with generating norms with documentarians that you, lewis, recommended to me. i am hoping they will join in the is2k7 effort to reify university as client. i spoke last night of the costs of university compliance with riaa, the slave labor aspect of copyright, with the example of nebraska sending riaa a bill.

In this issue you raise so well RIAA has given us high ground on which to stand and fight!!

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