June 5, 2007 3:31 PM PDT

Politicos threaten schools over campus piracy

WASHINGTON--Politicians on Tuesday threatened to enact new laws if universities don't do more to prevent their students from unlawfully swapping music, movies and other copyrighted files on campus networks.

At the latest in what has become a multiyear series of hearings focused on university campus piracy, members of the U.S. House of Representatives' Science and Technology Committee said college administrators must seriously consider using not only educational campaigns but also technological filters to reduce illicit file swapping among students.

"Illegal file sharing isn't just about royalty fees," committee chairman Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) said at the hearing, which lasted a little more than an hour. "It clogs campus networks and interferes with the educational and research mission of universities."

Relatively cheap broadband connections and readily available digital media works have made it easier and more tempting than ever to share copyrighted content illegally, said Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas), the committee's ranking member. "This rampant disregard for copyright law needs to end," he told the panel, which included administrators from the University of Chicago, Illinois State University, Arizona State University and the University of Utah.

"So long as the right thing remains more daunting, awkward and unsatisfying than the wrong thing, too many people will do the wrong thing."
--Greg Jackson, CIO, University of Chicago

The problem in policing Internet connections is, however, that besides April Fools' jokes like the omniscience protocol, it's hardly easy for a network provider to detect which packets are carrying illegal copyrighted material and which are not. About the best universities can do is measure the amount of information transmitted, which might indicate unlawful content--or might not, because there are many legitimate academic uses for bandwidth-saturating activity. And encrypted data can make any kind of filtering task near-impossible.

Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.), also a member of the House Judiciary Committee, which writes copyright laws, suggested Congress should withhold funding from universities if they don't police their networks adequately. Universities receive tens of billions of dollars a year in federal research money, and the Department of Education handed out $82 billion in 2007 in new grants and loans to students.

"We're spending a good deal of federal resources in terms of helping universities with their technological improvements, directly and indirectly," Feeney said. "Is it responsible for a Congress that wants to protect intellectual property rights to continue to fund network enhancements for universities if some of those enhancements are indirectly being used in fact to promote intellectual property theft?" (That seemed to be a reference to the Internet2 project, funded in part by taxpayers.)

Tuesday's hearing comes as both politicians and entertainment industry representatives have continued to pressure universities to crack down on perceived piracy problems. The Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America sent letters in late April to the presidents of 40 universities in 25 states, asking them to halt their students' use of programs that allow them to trade files against their schools' local area networks while skirting the public Internet.

And last month, the leaders of the Judiciary Committee, including longtime copyright crackdown advocates Reps. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Howard Berman (D-Calif.), sent letters to 19 universities considered to be the top piracy offenders, asking a number of questions about the policies they have in place and threatening to consider congressional action if their answers were unacceptable.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), also a member of both committees, cited years-old figures from his alma mater, Stanford University, that 80 percent of the campus' bandwidth was being used for file sharing. "To say file sharing on university campuses does not drive up the cost of education is just flat-out false," he said. "The more we can do to have the technology to keep this from happening in the first place, the better off students will be."

The cost of file sharing
Charles Wight, associate vice president for academic affairs and undergraduate studies at the University of Utah, said his school had saved $1.2 million in bandwidth costs and about $70,000 in personnel costs since implementing a two-pronged approach to rooting out file sharing three years ago. He said the university's information security office employs a combination of continuous monitoring of its networks for high-bandwidth users and runs software made by a company called Audible Magic, which is designed to match and block the exchange of copyrighted files through audio "fingerprinting," on its student residence networks.

Arizona State University Chief Technology Officer Adrian Sannier reported success in reducing illegal file sharing through a similar approach. In response to a question posed by Hall, all the university representatives present said they believed such technological solutions were part of the answer to reducing illicit file sharing but that they're far from foolproof. (In addition, file sharing can be used for non-infringing purposes at universities and corporations, as the U.S. Supreme Court noted in the Grokster case.)

Some officials had more favorable views about filtering and blocking. Greg Jackson, chief information officer for the University of Chicago, said his school had tried to block file-sharing traffic using various methods, but when one program failed, it took down all of the university's Internet traffic with it, stumping the technical staff for "a while."

Jackson and Illinois State University dean of libraries Cheryl Elzy also blamed the entertainment industry for some of the piracy problems.

"So long as the right thing remains more daunting, awkward and unsatisfying than the wrong thing, too many people will do the wrong thing," Jackson said, referring to the digital rights management technology used widely in legally purchased music files.

Both Elzy and Jackson endured grilling from some committee politicians who accused them of not taking seriously the viability of technological solutions.

"If we rely on technology too much, it's going to interfere with legal uses of peer-to-peer technologies," Elzy said. Some of her own library files can be quite large, she added, and "I'd like to not have those blocked."

CNET News.com's Declan McCullagh contributed to this report.

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15 comments

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Return of sneaker net
If networks become unavailable for file sharing I can see students using their external USB hard drives to transfer files that they have downloaded outside university networks to their friends. It'll just slow them down, it won't stop the practice.
Posted by MadKiwi (153 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Back to ArpaNet or Usenet
The good ole text messages segmented and partitioned. file ABC
part one of 15, each split into 10 sections. All you have to do is
recompile after you have all the message board postings.

The schools find it hard to block message boards from the
backbone of the net (usenet mainly) that most of the current
users have never used. The good old ASCII only days when it
came to viewing pages.

They can get so far in the attempted blocks. Students know the
gaps. Change file format when sending, then change back.
Copy contents to a word doc, then recompile when you recieve
it, that old school method. Underground WiFi with secret
passwords that change every X schedual to keep security off
your backs.

If I could gain entry to the University's Intranet by dialup with no
password, view student information; and even find a few field
service accounts still open... that tells you the level of security at
a Big 10 Campus.
Posted by Travis Ernst (170 comments )
Link Flag
These lawmakers disrespect liberty
What a shameful disrespect these lawmakers are showing for the fundamental principles of liberty and the right to due process.

Lawmakers should first dig themselves out of the pocket of the IP lobby and after they come to their senses remind themselves that it is NOT a question of restraining liberty in digital rights in order to protect the IP rights of the few versus the many.

The big issue here is that every citizen is entitled to act as they choose and to be accountable only once they misbehave. We DO NOT cut liberty off at the head because someone MIGHT break the law.

One huge argument big copyright makes is that it is SO DIFFICULT to enforce copyright. Problem is, this is true of ALMOST ANY AREA OF CIVIL LAW and is in effect no argument at all. It's like asking for a law that makes one guilty of child abuse before the fact and imposes a lockdown on someone just in case one might offend down the road.

On no account should U.S. lawmakers be considered credible in arguing, in effect, that the U.S. IP industry with its it billions in profits EVEN NEEDS to be protected.

Remember who you work for, dear legislators. You are not owned and operated by Mickey Mouse.
Posted by PolarUpgrade (103 comments )
Reply Link Flag
These Idiots Forget
Much of the software that drives the Internet comes out of Universities. Bored students come up with all sorts of technologies to do things. Do they really think that, in the face of network clamp-downs, students won't find a way to circumvent it? Heck, given the popularity of hacking AP firmware, it's easy to conceive of students circumventing the main campus network completely or in part by creating a peer-to-peer mesh net from personal APs. It's whack-a-mole, folks.
Posted by ferricoxide (1125 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Spurring great minds onward and upward
The assurance that technology will evolve is based out of situations just as you described. It's all a point / counter-point game. Anti-virus companies make millions of dollars a year because of virus engineers. Security protocols become more robust because people find ways to circumvent the current security protocols. At my university we had an individual that had simply proposed a way to circumvent our firewall by using proxy servers strategically set up and remotely administered. Being a college student, he did not have the financial means to throw out a few dozen pc's ( that would have eventually been dicovered )so his plan only went as far as a post on MySpace. The discovery of his post caused the school to block access to MySpace and Facebook while they reviewed the security protocol, checked the network for rogue nodes, and convinced the student that it would be in his best interest to assist the IT Department in closing holes in the network. The school's network is more secure because of nothing more than a theory. I guess what it really all boils down to is job security. Where people see conflict, I see a guarantee of a paycheck.
Posted by Black_Cowboy_Hat (9 comments )
Link Flag
Who is making the Policies?
The problem lies in the way outdated copyrights laws try to stifle innovation and creativity; not whether or not a student has downloaded a mp3 file. We try to own ideas, thoughts works of art and DNA. We hide scientific breakthroughs in drug research from the people who need it the most. Technology has changed the way we buy books, how we meet new people and how we share information. The way that people conduct business has changed drastically. Isn't it about time the outdated copyrights laws and failing business models catch up to technology.
Posted by rwhetsel (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
G
I wonder if told this one the thechnolgies involved in using it if i'd get away with it.
It's far more advanced than anything ever properly writen about but yes i got G.

So instead lets insult the other G god.
Yes it's all so perfect is'nt it god and all those FFT missed inperfections are nothing are they God.
Well guess what God with that attitude you'll never get G.
Aghh G.
I love G because it puts everything into perspective. Yep why worry about nukes or even money in its current form if you had G.
Ummmm G
is it 1
2 3
5 or 6
Year i suppose you could make use of G with that chi maths.
But is G triangulatable and even if you could get approximations would it be of any use if you can go down on it and use G.
Why you would end up chasing a ghost woulden't you god.
Oh year G.
I'm tempted to open up G a little hear but i was getting close to a topic on G Before and had my notes wiped.
Ummm G
oh it's so tempting.
Posted by wildchild_plasma_gyro (296 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What the....
Hell are you going on about? The topic was Universities, File
Sharing and Congress. Not lunatic rantings.

Try to stay on topic -- nut job.
Posted by c.Lake (42 comments )
Link Flag
Already Implemented
The university that I attend and work for has already implemented filters. In addition to blocking peer to peer software in the dorms, we have also implemented a web content filter. Although some of you are already thinking 1st amendment violations, this is a private university, thus we get away with stuff the state schools could only dream of. The content filter blocks sites that are of violent, explicit or pornographic in nature. Could you imagine if state schools could block porn traffic on their networks? Any school's network is supposed to be for educational purposes only. If only we could keep it that way.
Posted by Black_Cowboy_Hat (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
We can't blame the politicians...
they're just acting in their normal corrupt manner. Graft comes naturally to them. Perhaps we should consider just boycotting the recording industry that has corrupted them.
What if no one bought any music, no CDs, no downloads, no nothing for three months. (Just listen to the good stuff you already own.)
Take the summer off from being an unappreciated consumer. We've made them billionaires and now they want to treat us like cattle. Maybe it's time to push down the fences.
Posted by El Kabong (100 comments )
Reply Link Flag
In theory - good idea
In practice... it'll never happen. I would love nothing more than to eliminate the fat cats that run the recording industry. If I could, I would hand my $20 right to the artist for the work he/she/they put into the album. I would rather give the money to the ones that did the work.
The problem is that no one will ever comply with a 3 month boycott. People can't get organized for a one day boycott of gasoline, there isn't any way that they will abstain from new entertainment for 3 months.
If you could organize this movement, I would join it in a heart beat.
Posted by Black_Cowboy_Hat (9 comments )
Link Flag
It's really distressing . . .
...to see Congress leveling threats against higher education for the sake of protecting obsolete business models.
Posted by Drummerpig (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Cuting off the country's nose...
This issue has long surpassed the question of "copyright".
Come on? Is it REALLY wise to cut educational funding of OUR
COUNTRY's future over sharing a couple of "songs that come
FREE on the radio"? Really -- isn't there a BIGGER picture here
than getting every penny of $0.99 cents of some lame "Britteny
Spear's" song. Entertainment should NOT take up this much of
our lives. The fact that it does --speaks volumes about OUR
country. This has crap got to STOP.

So when China, Germany, and every other country -- surpass
the US by leaps and bounds with Science and Mathematics, and
all US Technical Jobs are shipped to Africa. We can all take pride
in the knowledge that "Prates of the Caribbean" copyrights are
SAFE for another day, for our kids future... living on welfare.



(Congress should remember, college kids do graduate and
become working citizians. Citizants with long memorize and the
power to vote.)

/Rant Over
Posted by c.Lake (42 comments )
Link Flag
 

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