Copyright rule arbitrary, confusing
Sure, UH has got a number of issues with residential Internet services, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the University of Kansas’ recent declaration, which hands out permanent bans from their residential network for downloading copyrighted material. Obviously, the move was made after much legal pestering by the music and movie protection rackets commonly known as the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America.
However, there are several problems with this policy. First, the fact that it applies to all copyrighted material makes it virtually impossible for students to download anything. If "all copyrighted material" is the language used in the actual housing agreement, then students can be permanently banned from the residential network for downloading their homework from their professors’ sites.
After all, the statement makes no mention as to whether the material was downloaded legally and at the consent of the copyright holder, and in the United States, everything is under copyright unless explicitly put in the public domain. The "no appeals" part of the policy also presents a major problem. Without an appeals process, there is hardly such a thing as justice. Saying that there are no appeals jeopardizes the whole concept of fair use and creating derivative works, the removals of which have long been goals of the music and movie industries.
A student may actually have a legitimate copy of the song in the form of a vinyl 45, but no means to play it while he or she is at school, as turntables are bulky and do not go well in dorm rooms.
If ever such a policy were implemented at UH, there would not be a residential network anymore.
The fact is that, whether intentionally or not, every single campus resident I have ever met has engaged in activities that would violate this policy, and you can’t kick everybody off.
McCormick, a computer science post-baccalaureate student, can be reached via [email protected]