Tuesday, November 06, 2007

DMCA, the RIAA, and Education

This week's Tech Therapy (yes, I listen) is an interview with Cary Sherman, president of the RIAA. About halfway through, Scott Carlson asks a question I sent in (I'm identified by name and school) about whether colleges and universities are doing enough to meet the DMCA requirements. He couches his answer by saying that some are doing a good job and some are not. He focuses on education as something that colleges should be doing more of since they are, after all, institutions of learning. He sees it as the colleges job to educate students about illegal downloading, something he actually raises in the question before. He discusses the way colleges crack down on plagiarism but now downloading. He says colleges should teach values and ethics. And I have to disagree a bit. Sure, most colleges try to instill ethics and values, but that's not our main job. We teach disciplines. I know our student affairs office tries to deal with some of these issues, but really we're not their parents. There's only so much we can do. And I think we probably do a better job than larger institutions. I do think we could probably do more to educate students about this issue, but I have another job to focus on, so it's not going to be my top priority. And I don't think it should be--just as it shouldn't be my top priority to educate students about drinking or safe sex.

Meanwhile, some institutions are fighting the RIAA's tactics in court. And others are complaining that content owners, like the RIAA, have too much control over current copyright law and fair use is disappearing. I think that the battle between colleges and the RIAA is indirectly about fair use. The RIAA and other content owners continue to try to lobby lawmakers to extend copyright restrictions and make using materials illegal even in educational settings. They don't seem willing to compromise on this issue and so colleges and universities don't feel like doing any more than the bare minimum to follow through on RIAA requests to sue their students.