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RIAA On Campus

Earlier this year, the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) amped up their efforts in targeting colleges and universities across the country in an attempt to stem future file sharing of copyrighted music.  Their policy, which involved sending "pre-litigation" notices to the institutions and asking the schools themselves to identify the students and distribute the notices, delivered its latest batch earlier this month.

Schools have dealt with these requests in different ways.  Some have acquiesced, others have billed the RIAA for their efforts, and still others are claiming that the whole process is a violation of universities rights and have declined to send the pre-litigation notices along.

Berkman founder Charles Nesson and fellow Wendy Seltzer responded with an Op-Ed that stated, "when copyright protection starts requiring the cooperation of uninvolved parties, at the cost of both financial and mission harm, those external costs outweigh its benefits."  In a different Op-Ed, Charles Nesson and Berkman Executive Director John Palfrey continued, "the university strives to create knowledge, to open the minds of students to that knowledge, and to enable students to take best advantage of their educational opportunities. The university has no legal obligation to deliver the RIAA's messages. It should do so only if it believes that's consonant with the university's mission.  We believe it is not."

Harvard University students have thus far been absent from the monthly batches RIAA letters, and even though some claim the response would be daunting, it has not stopped the Berkman community from continuing the discussions that came out of June's Internet & Society conference: UNIVERSITY: Knowledge Beyond Authority.  We hope these conversations continue, as we all seek to find a resolution that recognize the rights held by institutions of higher education and maintain freedom of information.