The RIAA and Internet2

Okay, well, I realize I can’t really let this little news item pass without commenting on it:

RIAA cracks down on Internet2 file swapping

There are a lot of obvious comments I could make about this new witchhunt by the RIAA, most of which have already been said by many other people. Nevertheless, I might as well reiterate a few important points:

Internet2 is a “closed” network. The RIAA declined to answer how they were able to get onto the network to discover the alleged copyright infringement in the first place. I hope this will finally push someone to seriously challenge the questionable way the RIAA (and now the MPAA as well) is monitoring these networks. Unless they have people working on the inside (which is not completely out of the realm of possibility), there is some seriously sketchy network “monitoring” going on.

Targeting I2. It’s pretty clear why the RIAA is targeting I2– because it’s considered a closed and centrally-controlled network, it is more regulable and can be used to set a precedent for regulating similar special networks. (Again, if it’s so closed and regulable, it begs the question, how did the RIAA get on there in the first place?) Check out Ed Felten’s comments on the subject.

Liability. Obviously, when asked to comment, the folks behind the i2hub community have stated that they do not condone activities that breach the rights of copyright owners. Well, I’m assuming that they’re not so naive to think that this wasn’t going to cause problems, especially since they so clearly identify themselves on their Web site (where they also say that this whole project is under the umbrella of “collaboration” between students). While universities come down harder and harder on p2p on their campuses for fear of being sued, there hasn’t been a case yet where the ISP (the university) has been sued. However, the entertainment industry first went after those running file-sharing services on campuses back in 2003 and has not hesitated to go after Grokster, Kazaa, and, most recently, BitTorrent tracker sites, so there’s little evidence that they would not go after the i2hub folks. I will assume that the i2hub folks aren’t stupid, so they should have been expecting something like this to happen eventually. If that’s the case, I hope they’re also willing to stand up and fight.

Digital music services. A number of the schools at which students were sued have university-wide deals in place for legal music services for their students (e.g., Napster, CDigix, Ruckus, etc.) I had thought that making a deal with the devil might offer those universities some comfort, but I guess not. This also shows that the amount of illegal file-sharing does not necessarily go down significantly just because you have legal services available. Both of these points don’t give universities much incentive to make campus deals.

In any case, we’ll see what happens. The RIAA sued no more than 25 students at each of the 18 schools (this statistic somehow meant to make us feel better since they claim to have evidence of many more cases of infringement). I sincerely hope that at least one of those students will fight back, will file a countersuit, will do something to stand up to the entertainment industry’s targeting of college students and universities in general. Maybe then they can get back to actually providing entertainment rather than punishing their customers and we can get back to the business of educating students.