Thursday, August 24, 2006

USC's bizarre, objectionable copyright policy

USC Deputy Chief Information Officer and Vice President for Student Affairs have emailed students a Copyright Compliance message that purports to inform students about the contours and boundaries of copyright, but actually presents a collection of scare-tactic half-truths and astonishing statements about the purpose of the university.

In the letter, USC's officers promise to spend students' tuition on policing them on behalf of the entertainment industry, but make no comparable promise to protect them from the thousands of automated, baseless accusations generated by the RIAA, MPAA and BSA.

Worse, the letter completely mis-states the relationship between copyright and scholarship, omitting any mention of fair use and the other user rights in copyright (especially important in an institution like USC with excellent arts programs, where students are apt to making daily unauthorized uses of copyrighted works for the purpose of criticism and study), and making the extraordinary statement that "USC's purpose is to promote and
foster the creation and lawful use of intellectual property."

Here's my annotations to the email from USC. It would be interesting to compare USC's policies on this to those at competing schools like UCLA and produce a ranking chart showing which schools side with scholarship and academic integrity, and which ones take USC's approach of putting non-legal notions of copyright ahead of its students' education.

Update: Aram sez, "I got busted for using BitTorrent on the USC network last year. Here's a link to the (unanswered) letter I wrote back to the university's CIO:

3. File sharing is my area of study and expertise.

Although I admit to downloading content I wish to view for entertainment purposes (i.e. [TV show]), my primary purpose in using file sharing networks is research, not entertainment. I am an "expert" in the field of online file sharing, with a paper trail to prove it. I have published both corporate and academic research on the subject, and served as a public voice in the media and at conferences regarding file sharing since the phenomenon first emerged six years ago. In fact, I was an expert witness for the defense in the recent lawsuit MGM vs. Grokster, which was eventually decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. Before I am referred to Student Conduct, I would ask that you consider my research and pedagogical purposes for file sharing, and even consider granting me permission to continue file sharing for these purposes.

1 comment:

sternberg said...

I can't remember getting this message last year -- and unfortunately my USC e-mail archives were flushed before Spring '06. I do remember getting the Ruckus propaganda, however, sometime in February when they finalized their contract with the University. I'm interested in how other schools handle this and especially with whether or not RA's (Resident Hall Assistants) and other staff are required to report and or/snoop for file-sharers.