Professor Charles Nesson has written an op-ed piece asking Harvard to protect its students from the RIAA's extortion racket.
From the Editorial:
Yet "new deterrence and education initiatives" from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) threaten access to this vibrant resource (the internet). The RIAA has already requested that universities serve as conduits for more than 1,200 "pre-litigation letters." Seeking to outsource its enforcement costs, the RIAA asks universities to point fingers at their students, to filter their Internet access, and to pass along notices of claimed copyright infringement.Essentially, the RIAA wishes to short-circuit the legal process by having Universities serve as agents for them, incriminating students. However, unlike a normal agency relationship where the agent is paid for its services, the RIAA expects the Universities to bear the full cost of acting as their "conduit". In-fact, the RIAA rebuffed the request of one University for the RIAA to pay-up for wasting their time and taxpayers' dollars.
I think it is grossly unfair for the Universities and the taxpayers to shoulder the costs associated with the RIAA litigating against a changing digital economy simply to protect their aging and antiquated business model. The little guy who has well-founded and valid claims would receive no help of any kind from any third party without paying them, yet the RIAA, a multi-billion dollar cartel, should be bent-over backwards for to help them with their flawed drift-net litigation strategy?
Congress recently sent letters to 19 universities demanding information about their policies on file sharing, including demands for information on filtering technology they employ to prevent it. Why, I ask, should universities be responsible for proactively filtering their networks to prevent civil (not criminal) damages against a third party when the law doesn't even require this of Internet Service Providers? Where in any University's charter does it indicate that their mission is to act as copyright police on behalf of copyright holders? If the RIAA truly feels that this is a threat to their business, they should be the ones paying to have the filtering put in place.
The professor continues:
But mere understanding is no reason for a university to voluntarily assist the RIAA with its threatening and abusive tactics. Instead, we should be assisting our students both by explaining the law and by resisting the subpoenas that the RIAA serves upon us. We should be deploying our clinical legal student training programs to defend our targeted students. We should be lobbying Congress for a roll back of the draconian copyright law that the copyright industry has forced upon us. Intellectual property can be efficient when its boundaries are relatively self-evident.
But when copyright protection starts requiring the cooperation of uninvolved parties, at the cost of both financial and mission harm, those external costs outweigh its benefits. We need not condone infringement to conclude that 19th- and 20th-century copyright law is poorly suited to promote 21st-century knowledge. The old copyright-business models are inefficient ways to give artists incentives in the new digital environment.