Last Thursday the House Subcommitte on Courts, The Internet, and Intellectual Property had a hearing titled “An Update – Piracy on University Networks” at the behest of Chairman Berman. The Witnesses consisted of the RIAA President, the Associate Vice Chancellor for IT from UCLA, the CEO of Red Lambda (makers of P2P and filesharing mitigation software), and the Vice President of the Association of American Universities. This was apparently the fourth of a series of hearings on this topic since 2004, and most committee members (from both parties) seemed to be sympathetic to the idea that something must be done about controlling piracy on university campuses, citing a 2004 GAO report (PDF) that attempted to assess the extent of filesharing on university networks. Chairman Berman (D-CA) was particularly adament about some form of congressional action on the matter. Options that were raised ranged from removing the automatic safe harbor universities enjoy from infringement by their students or conditioning the safe harbor on a “best efforts” method of detering student infringement. Options mandating some sort of technical fix such as Red Lambda’s cGrid technology were also discussed. The University representatives seemed skeptical about such technical fixes, and seemed to prefere a university driven approach to reducing infringement on campus through education, quarantine, and student punishment. Congressman Conyers (D-MI) also seemed in favor of some sort of congressional activity to reduce piracy on universities, but also stressed the importance of balancing academic freedom and the legitimate uses of P2P networks, though these points seemed to get drowned out in the discussion. Some personal highlights from the hearing: Berman began with the standard recital of how much money the motion picture and recording industry lost last year to Piracy: $18.2 billion for the movie industry and $4.5 billion for the recorded music industry. 44% of the domestic “loss” for the movie industry was from university infringement (for a total of $500 Million of the global 18.2 billion). Berman also asked that a list be compiled comprising the schools who refused to cooperate in the GAO study over student privacy concerns. Berman further stressed that current law wasn’t giving universities the necesary incentives to discourage piracy on their networks. Conyers agreed that the current situation where no incentives existed for universities to stem illegal piracy was unacceptable. Congressman Sherman, in a rather drastic statement, described student downloaders as the CEOs of the Enrons and WorldComs of tomorrow. Red Lambda’s CEO analogized filesharing to a virusââ?¬Â¦ and how dangerous it is for university networks to allow open filesharing, because of all the bad viruses out there just waiting to infect the network via P2P networks. The RIAA President jumped on the virus analogy and likened packet-filtering to being just like anti-virus software. He also jumped on the academic freedom and student privacy issues by describing the “real” use of P2P networks as just a way to download illegal content. Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about legally delivering content by streaming it over P2P networks. I wonder how restrictions on university networks would affect these up-and-coming legal content delivery systems.

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