p2pnet news | RIAA News:- Harvard University has a number of distinctions, but one in particular is particularly relevant with respect to Warner Music, EMI, Vivendi Universal and Sony BMG’s bloody-minded and bizarre sue ‘em all marketing campaign.
With that as a backdrop, professor Charles Nesson (right), William F. Weld professor of law, Harvard Law School, and founder and faculty co-director, Berkman Center for Internet & Society, had added a rather unusual, possibly unique, element to his Evidence 2008 course.
Under RIAA v University, frame a motion to, “quash a subpoena from a copyright holder to the university for the identity of a student downloader on grounds of undue burden,” he says in what has to be one of the most apt law courses at any US school excepting, perhaps, Maine where two student lawyers are actively representing two university students.
‘Habits are crystallized’
When the Big 4 used their RIAA to launch the campaign in 2003, anyone and everyone from twelve-year-olds to dead grandmothers was a potential target.
Since those early days, the labels have refined their campaign until in this digital 21st-century, students across America are the principal targets.
That’s because they’ve, “reached a stage in life when their music habits are crystallized, and their appreciation for intellectual property has not yet reached its full development,” explains RIAA mouthperson Clara Duckworth.
In other words, they can be easily scammed into caving in to RIAA blackmail and extortion.
‘Pay us $3,000 or we’ll sue you,” says the Big 4 the organisation, knowing that in the majority of cases the universities themselves will act as RIAA enforcers.
But that by no means applies to all universities and some such as Oregon and Maine are doing everything they can to live up to their responsibilities toward their students.
‘Compromising student privacy?’
However, Harvard is, to put it mildly, unusual among the Ivy League universities in that despite outspoken views on the parts of senior staff, it hasn’t yet received any RIAA extortion letters with orders to pass them on to students.
“Universities are being asked to absorb financial and non-monetary costs of the record companies’ enforcement,” said University and the RIAA in June last year, going on:
“Is this enforcement also compromising student privacy? Does this limit access to genuine educational resources?”
A month later, Harvard and other universities to which the RIAA sent pre-litigation notices, “ought to take strong, direct action,” said Nesson and John Palfrey, clinical professor of law and executive director, the Berkman Center.
They went on:
This Spring, 1,200 pre-litigation letters arrived unannounced at universities across the country. The RIAA promises more will follow. These letters tell the university which students the RIAA plans on suing, identifying the students only by their IP addresses, the ‘license plates’ of Internet connections. Because the RIAA does not know the names behind the IP addresses, the letters ask the universities to deliver the notices to the proper students, rather than relying upon the ordinary legal mechanisms.
Universities should have no part in this extraordinary process.
Now, in Evidence 2008, “frame a motion to quash a subpoena from a copyright holder to the university for the identity of a student downloader on grounds of undue burden,” says Nesson under University and RIAA in what has to be one of the most apt law courses at any US school excepting, perhaps, Maine where two student lawyers are actively representing two university students.
Says Nesson, in part, under RIAA v. UNIVERSITY
Last fall the Recording Industry Association of America sent letters to about 700 colleges, announcing that it would soon let students accused of music piracy settle their claims out of court before it officially filed suit. In February the trade group made good on its promise: It sent batches of “pre-litigation notices” to 13 universities and asked those institutions to pass the messages along to students identified only by their Internet-protocol numbers. The notices direct recipients to a Web site and a telephone hotline to which they can pay lump sums ($3000) to record companies. Harvard is soon to decide whether this is a request with which it should comply.
All universities, Harvard among them, should decline RIAA’s request. The mission of university is to preserve, create, and disseminate knowledge. When accomplishment of that mission meets conflict with values from other spheres, propriety demands civil resistance. Compliance with this request will distort university’s mission.
The mission of Harvard College is:
Harvard College adheres to the purposes for which the Charter of 1650 was granted: “The advancement of all good literature, arts, and sciences; the advancement and education of youth in all manner of good literature, arts, and sciences; and all other necessary provisions that may conduce to the education of the … youth of this country….”
In brief: Harvard strives to create knowledge, to open the minds of students to that knowledge, and to enable students to take best advantage of their educational opportunities.
Universities “pass along messages” that direct students to “pay lump sums to record companies,” become an arm of the recording industry, bypassing their educational role (teaching about fair use, for example) and bypassing due process, if in fact there is a criminal charge to be made.
University information officers should not accept the private sheriff’s badges sent them by RIAA. Distinction between university and recording industry is worth preserving. RIAA response is disingenuous: “…we are not asking them to tell their students what to do–just to give us an opportunity to convey our message….” Message “conveyed” by the university become the university’s message as well. The voluntary act of conveying RIAA’s message implies an unhealthy convergence of industry and university norms. UNIVERSITY must resist if we are successfully to teach and practice true respect for learning and true understanding of law.
Here’s a legal strategy of civil resistance to beat back RIAA.
Persuade the provost and general counsel of harvard to enable a Berkman Center clinical initiative to represent the university on motions to quash RIAA subpoenas in the John Doe law suits filed against our students. Allow us to train student lawyers in all of the arguments of legitimate resistance. Make RIAA litigate each one. Give our students practice and real experience. Give the judges of our federal courts opportunity to allow the process of justice to grind fine. The delay of process alone will cripple RIAA’s enforcement campaign. If and when RIAA prevails on a motion to quash, the university complies with the subpoena but also makes the student aware of the Berkman Center’s clinical program to assist students in their legal defense.
actively representing – Maine law students vs the RIAA, December 28, 2007
Clara Duckworth – RIAA with Don Reisinger: read, weep January 1, 2008
Oregon – RIAA may be spying on students: Oregon AG, November 29, 2007
strong, direct action – Take a hike, RIAA: US universities, July 11, 2007
went on – RIAA student victimisation campaign, July 21, 2007
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