• Law, Policy -- and IT?

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


Has the Market Changed the Copyright Calculus?

Seeking a status update.

September 15, 2015

As Director of IT Policy at Cornell University and DMCA officer in years of the “Copyright Wars,” I was on the front lines. Cornell created a DMCA process (that the Higher Education Opportunity Act absorbed in its regulations as an example of compliance), we synched these events with authorities on campus (Judicial Administration; Human Resources and Provost’s Office for students non-academic and academic staff). Over the years we continued to educate the community about the issues, and personal liabilities, at stake in copyright infringement. 

Cornell held panel discussions with stakeholders from RIAA, MPAA, EFF.  The University Computer Policy and Law Program featured advocates such as Alan Davidson, who now works for the Commerce Department, and Miriam Nisbit, who among other august roles was at the time the legislative counsel for the ALA.  [Sadly, the site that housed all of these talks has disappeared from Cornell’s web space.] 

We worked very closely with the students and families associated when the RIAA sued students.  We joined arms with librarians and faculty on copyright issues stemming from scholarly publications. I spoke at conferences, talked with association leaders in D.C., and even took a ride in Cary Sherman’s limousine from an ACE speaking engagement in Los Angeles to the airport.  Fellow alum of Cornell, he was charming and I liked him personally very much even though we continued to have different perspectives and interests on the touchy subject.   

Where are we on copyright today? Maybe because I have been working more in information management administratively and teaching culture, law and politics of the Internet, I am simply out of touch. The temperature has seemed to gone down quite a bit.  So I appeal to those on the ground to fill us in on this once very lively subject. To be sure, the reforms that many of us advocated – I have a list of ten that I keep in my back pocket, but mostly now I just use them as a vehicle to teach students about it – but I don’t hear much about the issues or reform movements. 

Are our associations doing anything about the copyright provisions in this reauthorization of the Higher Education Act? So many of the safe harbor activities technology has antiquated, for example addressing “high bandwidth users.” Did the market take the sting out of copyright infringement with students by establishing iTunes and Netflix?  If so, does that mean that we do not need legal reform anymore?  What about scholarly publishing?  Surely the publishers are still making a profit … on higher education’s back?  Did the Georgia case settle the e-reserves issues? Or is everything now safely tucked behind the technology of authentication taking fair use out of the limelight? 

Please comment?


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