Playing with Technology

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. ~Arthur C. Clarke

Copyright infringement from the inside

Ross Housewright worked with Tarleton Gillespie to do research on copyright infringement and file sharing while an undergrad at Cornell. He wanted to conduct the study because the message we hear is one sided and from the record labels. The message of students and average consumers is not being heard. Cornell had Napster and students had 2GB/month transfer to the Internet and then had to pay by the byte. The study had 42 participants and had them keep a music acquisition journal and did a semi-structured interview. The university review board was concerned about the anonimity of the students, but they were able to keep identities private. It was hard to track students actual downloading behavior. What did they find?

  • Students love p2p and in particular loved Direct Connect. It was safe because it was on a student computer acting as a server and it was IP authenticated. Students have a vast amount of shared social knowlwdge about what file sharing software is working and what wasn’t.
  • They still buy CDs but it is not the default method of obtaining music. A CD purchase was a special event. Even when they had CDs they would burn and share the CDs.
  • Some students looked at p2p as radio. These students wouldn’t buy music if there was no p2p. They would listen to the radio or burn CDs from friends.
  • Students didn’t like Napster. Why?
    • The bands and songs they want aren’t there.
    • The songs won’t play on their iPod.
    • DRM
    • It was not as good as p2p.
    • Since they had free access they viewed it as p2p and for most it didn’t compare to other p2p programs.
  • Student comments include, “If I can get it for free, why would I pay?”, “Why spend money when you don’t have to”, “Illeagal is so relative.”
  • One student comment really summarizes the view of this generation. It boils down to the fact that they grew up in a time when they could get music for free and anything that makes it the least bit hard to get music leagally can’t compare to p2p.
  • Some justifications include the fact that musicians have lots of money and they don’t need a poor student’s money. The justifications are not the result of concious thought by the file sharers but are just floating out there and latched onto by the students.
  • Educational efforts from the industry are unconvincing because of the rich vs. poor perception.
  • Recommendations
    • Don’t fight the battles for the students
    • Encourage the students to be responsible
    • Talk to the students
      • What do you do?
      • What do you want?
      • How do you think we can accomplish this?
    • Give them information like “Here is how to not get sued when using p2p”.

My take.

Can we encourage students to get political about this issue and work to change the laws surrounding copyright? In actuality the issue really is broader than music download and p2p. The issue is really about copyright and fair-use and their relavance or lack thereof on the Internet. We need to step back and work on this broader problem and see if it points to a solution for the p2p download problem. All-in-all a good session.



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3 responses to “Copyright infringement from the inside”

  1. Ross Avatar

    glad you enjoyed it (yes, i’m googling myself…) 🙂 just one note – i worked with prof. *tarleton* gillespie, not robert.

  2. Jon Breitenbucher Avatar

    Updated to correct my error. It was definitely one of the more productive talks I attended.

  3. Ross Avatar

    Well, glad to hear that! I think I’m going to do a webcast version of it for EDUCAUSE Live! sometime soon, so please spread the word 😉 We’re working on a paper on this research as well, I’ll let you know what comes of that.