Attention KU students

This post is copyrighted. If you read this on a KU network, or any other copyrighted material, you just forfeited your network access. At least, that’s how I read the new policy the University of Kansas announced:

A brief notice on the University of Kansas ResNet site explains the university’s new position very succinctly. “If you are caught downloading copyrighted material, you will lose your ResNet privileges forever,” reads the notice. “No second notices, no excuses, no refunds. One violation and your ResNet internet access is gone for as long as you reside on campus.”

The thing is, though, you have permission to download this copyrighted material. I want you to download it. I’ve attached a Creative Commons license to encourage you and others to read it, quote it, copy it, and mash it up in interesting ways, within limits (noncommercial use, give me credit, etc.).

Ah, you say, they must have meant anyone caught downloading copyrighted material using peer to peer tools. Perhaps, except that there are musicians and filmmakers who encourage their work to be distributed via P2P, just as I encourage you to download material on this blog.

What they really mean is that anyone accused of downloading allegedly copyrighted music or movies without the permission of the RIAA or MPAA will instantly and eternally lose internet access on campus. There’s no chance to point out that the artist has given permission, or that there are valid reasons to use P2P to distribute copyrighted material like Linux distributions. It isn’t a “one-strike policy,” it’s a one-pitch policy. Ball, strike, foul tip ? it doesn’t matter. No checking the third base umpire to see whether you broke the wrist. And by assumption, there are no hits.


  1. #1 Rose Colored Glasses
    July 21, 2007

    Clearly, the officials behind this are seriously deluded, and stupid.

    Reading any online newspaper or news service would be a violation because all articles are copyrighted.

  2. #2 Rob KNop
    July 21, 2007

    Never mind the fact that the very design of the Internet is peer-to-peer.

    Sure, in this case the web browser is a “client” and the web server is a “server,” and more data tends to go from the latter to the former. And, sure, it’s the server that sits there listening for connections. But beyond that, the communication on the TCP/IP layer is fairly symmetric between the two.


  3. #3 Mike Silverman
    July 21, 2007

    Nice to see our public university turn into an enforcement division for the thugs at the RIAA and MPAA.

  4. #4 llewelly
    July 21, 2007

    Wherever there is an internet connection available as widely as a typical college, you are likely to find such badly fumbled policy statements. Fact is, most people have no clue what a copyright is, or what a license is, and have likely never read a EULA.

  5. #5 PhysioProf
    July 21, 2007

    I would assume that the intent of the policy is to forbid the downloading of copyrighted material in violation of the copyright. If properly written, such a policy would allow downloading of coprighted material with the permission of the copright holder, or without permission but in a manner consistent with the principle of fair use.

    It sounds like this thing was written by an IT administrator and not–as it should have been–by someone from KU’s general counsel’s office.

    As an example of a reasonably written policy on copyrights, my university forbids use of its IT systems in a manner that “infringes copyrights”, and then clarifies as follows:

    “With respect to copyright infringement, Users should be aware that copyright law governs (among other activities) the copying, display, and use of software and other works in digital form (text, sound, images, and other multimedia). The law permits use of copyrighted material without authorization from the copyright holder for some educational purposes (protecting certain classroom practices and “fair use,” for example), but an educational purpose does not automatically mean that the use is permitted without authorization.”

  6. #6 crf
    July 21, 2007

    related –>

    In Ohio University, you can fileshare. You just need permission from the university that what you want to download is permissible. Otherwise, you’re toast, even if what you download is legal.

  7. #7 PhysioProf
    July 21, 2007

    That Ohio State prior-restraint/licensing policy seems grossly inconsistent with both the ethical principles of academic freedom, and the State and Federal constitutional right to freedom of speech (since Ohio State is a public university).

    The copyright policy I quoted above is from the broader “IT Appropriate Use Policy” of the private Ivy League university I am affiliated with. This appropriate use policy makes no specfic mention of peer-to-peer. It does forbid the following activities, but they are not defined in terms of content or protocol of network usage:

    “Use that impedes, interferes with, impairs, or otherwise causes harm to the activities of others. Users must not deny or interfere with or attempt to deny or interfere with service to other users in any way, including by “resource hogging,” misusing mailing lists, propagating “chain letters” or virus hoaxes, “spamming” (spreading email or postings widely and without good purpose), or “bombing” (flooding an individual, group, or system with numerous or large email messages). Knowing or reckless distribution of unwanted mail or other unwanted messages is prohibited. Other behavior that may cause excessive network traffic or computing load is also prohibited.”

    So, if a particular user were grossly overburdening the network with peer-to-peer traffic, I suppose this rule could be used to stop her.

    The only specific reference to peer-to-peer traffic that I could find is from our university’s “Systems and Network Security” policy:

    “The following widely-used Internet programs represent significant potential security risks and are prohibited on any University computers with confidential or ePHI (“Protected Health Information”) data:
    ē Peer-to-peer file sharing services such as Gnutella, Kazaa, Bittorrent, eDonkey and the like unless a particular application is specifically approved for University business”

    The implication is that, other than particular computers containing confidential or ePHI information, peer-to-peer is allowable on the network, subject only to other more general restrictions.

    It is interesting that our private university’s policies on copyright and peer-to-peer are much more respectful of academic freedom and freedom of speech than those of KU and OSU.

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