Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Protect Harvard from the RIAA

Charles Nesson and Wendy Seltzer have spoken out against the RIAA's tactics in targeting Universities.

"Since its founding, Harvard has been an educational leader. Its 1650 charter broadly conceives its mission to include “the advancement of all good literature, arts, and sciences, [and] the advancement and education of youth in all manner of good literature, arts, and sciences.” From John Harvard’s library through today’s, the University has worked to create and spread knowledge, educating citizens within and outside its walls...

Yet “new deterrence and education initiatives” from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) threaten access to this vibrant resource. The RIAA has already requested that universities serve as conduits for more than 1,200 “pre-litigation letters.” Seeking to outsource its enforcement costs, the RIAA asks universities to point fingers at their students, to filter their Internet access, and to pass along notices of claimed copyright infringement.

But these responses distort the University’s educational mission. They impose financial and non-monetary costs, including compromised student privacy, limited access to genuine educational resources, and restricted opportunities for new creative expression.

One can easily understand why the RIAA wants help from universities in facilitating its enforcement actions against students who download copyrighted music without paying for it. It is easier to litigate against change than to change with it. If the RIAA saw a better way to protect its existing business, it would not be threatening our students, forcing our librarians and administrators to be copyright police, and flooding our courts with lawsuits against relatively defenseless families without lawyers or ready means to pay. We can even understand the attraction of using lawsuits to shore up an aging business model rather than engaging with disruptive technologies and the risks that new business models entail.

But mere understanding is no reason for a university to voluntarily assist the RIAA with its threatening and abusive tactics...

The University’s educational mission is broader than the RIAA’s demands. We don’t have all the answers either, but rather than capitulating to special interests, we should continue to search for fair solutions that represent the University’s mission, its students, and the law in a way that educates students to be leaders of the digital 21st century."

Well said.

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