RIAA and the Internet2

Saw the RIAA/Internet2 story on BoingBoing, Freedom to Think and a few other places. It’s not a shocker that the RIAA is suing more colleges for trading over Internet2, and as Felten notes, it’s not suprising that the RIAA could access the Internet2.

I’m willing to bet, though, that many students have no idea that they’re using the Internet2 to fileshare. Use of the Internet2 is transparent to them, at least here at UT. Judging at the very least from people to work from me and past students, it’s not something that many of them think about, or have even been told about. The Internet2 is just part of the Internet, “maybe the faster” part that we get here at the University, a couple have said. Most of our students are surprised to find out that some of their data is being transferred over the Internet2 when they connect to other universities- we have them use traceroute and watch for the Internet2 Abilene network in one of their assignments.

There’s a bit of a strange story in the Daily Texan today about the RIAA/Internet2 lawsuits. It notes that the RIAA would like to include subscription file sharing services in student tuition. I wonder how well that idea would go over?

Like the RIAA/MPAA educational materials and many college and university copyright policies, the story doesn’t really provide enough information… “Sherman said the lawsuits were intended to educate the public, and students in particular, that file sharing without permission is legally risky. Copyright infringement carries a minimum penalty of $750 per item, Sherman said, but the RIAA routinely settles the cases at far less, in the $3,500-$4,500 range. ” It’s all true, but the RIAA education always pushes the legal risk without truly educating about legal uses of P2P software. I don’t think they can call what they’re doing education. Of course, the article is very clear that the RIAA is all about the fear. The ending is particularly unusual, with quotes from Eric Garland of BigChampagne (who tracks P2P usage for the industry, according to the article):

Suits can only be brought against people who not only share their music but also allow downloaders to browse their files freely – something most peer programs now configure against automatically.

“The industry is picking off easy targets,” Garland said.

Everyone at the University can download the entire history of music without any fear of litigation, he said.

“You can be immune right there in your dorm room.”

I find that odd for several reasons, not the least of which that it isn’t entirely correct. That someone who works for the industry would make a statement like that is surprising, although I wouldn’t be surprised if it was taken out of context given some of our previous experience with the paper. But the statement could also lead to a false sense of security- even if the student’s directory isn’t browsable, people can certainly use packet sniffing, bandwidth and network monitoring to find out if someone was sharing files with many of the popular P2P file systems. I knew they were targetting people who shared a lot of music, but I thought they collected information using more sophisticated means.

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