Universities resist RIAA information requests

August 12th, 2008

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article, Antipiracy Campaign Exasperates Colleges, on how Universities are begining to resist increased requests by the RIAA to fight music file sharing.

“Talk to the chief information officer at just about any American university, and he will probably say that his institution has bent over backward to help the Recording Industry Association of America curb illegal file sharing on his campus. He will also tell you he’s angry.

On e-mail lists and in interviews, university CIO’s and other information-technology professionals say their mission is getting derailed and staff time is being overloaded by copyright takedown notices, “prelitigation settlement letter,” RIAA-issued subpoenas, lobbying efforts, and panicked students accused of piracy.

Now, feeling burdened and betrayed, some of those universities are quietly fighting back, resisting requests for information and trying to quash subpoenas. Those that do so, though, find that their past compliance — and the continued compliance of their peer institutions — is being held against them.

“We feel like we’ve been led down the garden path, and our interest in working in partnership and leading our mission as educators is now being used against us,” said Tracy Mitrano, director of IT policy at Cornell University.

For years the entertainment industry and higher education have considered themselves allies in the fight to curb illegal file sharing on campuses, most visibly through the Joint Committee of the Higher Education and Entertainment Communities Technology Task Force. Over the past year, joint-committee members from universities say tensions have grown, primarily because they feel betrayed by the industry’s lobbying to force filtering technology on university networks.”

The Missouri Mom (Lori Drew) case — Privacy Issues and New Legal Theories ?

May 22nd, 2008

As the news media have all reported, Lori Drew has been indicted for her role in the death of a teenager. You may recall that this person, with her daughter and her friend, created a fake MySpace account, pretend to befriend another teen, and then “dump” her. The other teen committed suicide.  Opinions are split on whether being mean to a person, even to a kid, is a criminal offense that should lead to prosecution, as opposed to societal opprobrium.

What interested me however that of the four counts of the indictment, three had to do with violating the Terms of Service –in particular creating a fake profile, and using this fake profile to obtain information from the server. This was done under federal laws that criminalize unauthorized access — things like hacking into a server. So does this mean that the legal theory being advanced by the US Attorney for the Central District of California is that creating a fake account on an internet service is criminalizable if the ToS of the provider say that you should give accurate information ?  Certainly many experts that USA Today talked to seem to think so. No more creating accounts with fictitious names at newspaper sites that many people can use ? How about using the right name, but messing up some of the information ( income level, demographics) at each site so that they can’t datamine you ? Or not providing the right contact information (a@b.com), so that they can’t sell it to telemarketers ? Or any of the various other things that people routinely do in terms of providing incomplete or incorrect information. The penalty now can be criminal, not just a shutting down of access to the site concerned. Hmmm…….