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  • Law, Policy -- and IT?

    Tracy Mitrano explores the intersection where higher education, the Internet and the world meet (and sometimes collide).

The Grand Bargain
April 15, 2012 - 9:16pm

My friend Joe Storch, who works as an attorney at the SUNY System Office, calls an idea that has been floating around regarding copyright infringement on campus networks for some time the "Grand Bargain." The idea is that content owners should provide students with free content through a portal that becomes a paid service once they leave college. I say "floating around" because some of us proposed this idea a number of years ago, when it was a fresh issue, but it was received then as a grand absurdity. There was still money to be made, the Internet effect did not seem completely inevitable, and besides, as we were told, it was impossible to get all the copyright holders together to agree on anything that would be the foundation of the licensing.

That was then, and this is now.  Notwithstanding Adele, albums are for vintage collectives, the Internet effect is permanent for decades if not centuries to come, and Steve Jobs alone proved that when the money is right, copyright holders will do just about anything.  For heaven's sake, even The Beatles are on iTunes now.

Last week a group of network, content and higher education folks met in D.C.  Acknowledging the good work that higher education has done in complying with the HEOA file sharing requirements, the content holders were still not satisfied.  So once again we asked about licensing content for free on campus networks.

Joe, who is younger than most of us and therefore went to college when this was a live issue, sold it like never before using examples of "Edge Shaving Cream." Since getting it for free in a little packet at the beginning of college, he has been using it ever since. Pretty good investment for Edge! But the content industry at the table that day was not moved.

Are you? What do you think, four years after the passing of the HEOA and almost two years since the file share provisions went into effect. Is copyright infringement still a big issue on your campus?  With all the challenges that higher education is facing today, you will pardon me if I think not. Keeping the lights on and our missions central seems more important than another content owners' shakedown. That said, it is never too late for a bargain … for that kind of conversation, we would be all ears!


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