News University and RIAA Hold Hands
posted by June 27 at 10:54 AMon
Here is a portion of an e-mail was sent to all students at the University of Washington:
The RIAA is now sending colleges and universities a letter for each instance they find of a student illegally downloading material from the internet and requesting the university to identify the individual student and forward the letter to him or her…
The University has been notified by the RIAA that we will be receiving a number of these early settlement letters. After careful consideration, we have decided to forward the letters to the alleged copyright violators. We do so primarily because we believe students should have the opportunity to avail themselves of the settlement option if they so choose.
Let’s say Focus on the Family writes a series of letters to the university accusing a “John Doe” embryonic stem cell researcher at the university of violating federal restrictions on the creation of new lines. Mind you, they’ve shown no real material information that any individual has violated the law, just blanket accusations with flimsy identifying information.
They say to the university “give us personal information on every human embryonic stem cell researcher at the university or we’ll subpoena that information.”
The university replies: “Well, we can’t roll over that easily. Send us letters demanding that the recipient contact you or suffer severe legal concequences, and we’ll forward them to everyone working on human embryonic stem cells here. Then you’ll get your identifying information, and we’ll be off the hook.”
Whether the university is directly identifying students to the RIAA or indirectly does so by sending the students a letter directing them to contact the RIAA, the net result is the same.
Do people not understand why academic institutions MUST behave differently than this?
What if the oil industry threw letters at climatologists?
What if the junk food industry thew letters at obesity researchers?
The university has access to a massive collection of very personal information, including detailed financial, academic, and medical records. It is essential for the primary mission of the university to protect its members against angered outside forces. Without this commitment to protect academics, we’ll never be able to get honest answers to questions.
Shouldn’t the proper course have been to:
1. Not save identifying information in the first place?
2. Tell the RIAA to come back with their own damn identifying information?
3. Send letters instructing students to not self-incriminate themselves?
4. Provide proper legal services rather than (borderline negligent) legal advice to settle to any and all demands?