Archive for October, 2008

Political Signs at UT Dorms

President Powers has responded to the controversy:

The University’s rule prohibiting the display of signs in students’ residence hall room windows has been the subject of a great deal of discussion for the past few days. I am keenly aware that this prohibition is of intense concern to many members of the student body, as well as the larger community. I believe that the free expression of ideas is crucial to our educational mission, and that our rules should foster civil discourse and debate. I conclude, therefore, that this rule should be carefully reviewed with the participation of all constituencies in The University of Texas at Austin community, including students.

Effective immediately, I am suspending the prohibition on signs in individual students’ residence hall room windows and any sanctions related to its enforcement. The rule will be removed today from the Division of Housing and Food Service’s rules, and will be replaced with an interim regulation that expressly allows the display of signs and posters in students’ residence hall room windows.

Juan Gonzalez, Vice President for Student Affairs, has kept me well informed on this issue. I have asked him to convene a committee composed of all major constituencies to discuss all aspects of the policy on residence hall room signs and make recommendations on any changes that need to be made. The interim rule allowing signage in individual students’ residence hall room windows will remain in place until the committee issues its report and I act upon their recommendations.

William Powers, Jr.

Now I wonder if anyone will evaluate the “Free Speech Zones.”


Yeah, those “loss to piracy figures” are more or less made up.

Ars Technica is running a very informative story about the claims that various organizations and government agencies make about losses to piracy:

The ultimate conclusion is that the numbers are highly questionable, likely biased, and didn’t really deal with piracy in the first place.

The confusion is a result basically a 20 year “game of telephone” (yes… before P2P!), with all kinds of cross-citations obfuscating that the original numbers probably came from the publishers themselves.

Whether or not the selection of these particular numbers has been intentional (and selecting from the high end of a dubious estimate was likely intentional at least one time), this unexamined citation is certainly lending an undeserved air of authority and legitimacy to those numbers. For example, it sounds better if those numbers come “from the F.B.I.” or “from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,” even if the monetary loss estimates were originally coming from self-reports of the industry itself. Furthermore, those numbers didn’t actually deal with “piracy.” For example, the estimates included revenue “lost” from countries with laws that weren’t as broad as ours! Those estimates, reportedly according to the initial author, “could admittedly be biased and self-serving.”

Of course, those aren’t the only numbers thrown around, but they are used quite a bit by a number of sources, including government agencies themselves and those responsible for passing the recent “PRO-IP” bill. (Meanwhile, the Orphan Works bill languishes…)

At any rate, we need better and more transparent research involving potential losses to infringement.