Is the RIAA (or the MPAA) coming to a campus near you?

May 13, 2008

Andrea Foster filed a story with The Chronicle of Higher Education that should send a chill down students’ spines everywhere.

As if the recent spike in bogus copyright infringement lawsuits gushing out of the RIAA and MPAA wasn’t enough, it looks like these organizations are taking their fight to state legislators. Here’s the story’s lede:

Higher-education officials say that the entertainment industry is pushing for state laws that would force colleges to police their networks for illegal trading of music and video files and to buy software to stem the problem.

Lawmakers in Tennessee and Illinois recently considered such legislation, and a similar bill may be brewing in California, according to officials who spoke at a technology-policy conference here on Thursday.

To be honest, I’m kind of surprised they haven’t tried something like this in California already – after all, the RIAA and MPAA practically own L.A….

Foster continues:

There is no legislation in California to deter file sharing on college campuses. But Kent Wada, director of information-technology strategic policy at the University of California at Los Angeles, told the technology officials at the conference Thursday that there was an “informational hearing” in the State Capitol in March to discuss the issue. Among those speaking at the meeting was Mitch Glazier, senior vice president of government relations and industry relations for the RIAA

My favorite quote comes from an earlier story in The Chronicle for Higher Ed., in which Foster interviews Cary Sherman, president of the RIAA, about the recent jump in aggressive lawsuits filed by his organization against alleged copyright infringers. Check out this gem:

“There’s just no connection to anything that’s happening in Congress, in the courts, or anything else,” Mr. Sherman said. He added that the increase in notifications did not mean that there had been a sudden rise in campus piracy. “We’re constantly asking our vendor to improve performance,” of its software that scans for copyright violations online, Mr. Sherman said. “They just completed work on an upgrade and, poof, it just happened.”

Did he actually say that with a straight face? Does anyone believe this joker?

If anybody else out there has a stake in a California educational institution, this might be a good time to contact your local administrators, legislators, etc. California has better things to do with its time and (empty) state coffers than play toy cop for the culture industry.

In the case of UC Berkeley, the University’s Chief Information Officer is Shel Waggener. Shel is quite a brilliant guy who is almost certainly already aware of this issue and probably already working on it. I think I might send him a quick email, though, just to be sure…

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