I'm at the EDUCAUSE Policy Conference this week in D.C to talk about EFF's VCL. I'm currently in a session on DMCA Enforcement where Russell S. Vaught, Associate Vice Provost, Information Technology, The Pennsylvania State University (the chief architect of Penn State's Neo-Napster program) is speaking. (Carrie Russell, Copyright Specialist, Office for Information Technology Policy, American Library Association (ALA) also gave an excellent presentation on the dangers of the DMCA to universities and libraries.)
Vaught had many interesting things to say. Among them were:
(1) Penn State now has an absolute ban on any student running a server in a residential dorm. Period. The only possible exception is if you swear to only use it for "educational" purposes and get written permission from a faculty member and get approval from the Vice Provost.
So this is part of Penn State's solution to copyright infringement: Take away computing tools from students. As Ed Felten pointed out in our later panel discussion, this is a very dangerous approach for educational institutions to take. Computer science students often learn best through hands-on experimentation and tinkering with technology, and as Jamie Boyle noted in his plenary talk, unplanned experimentation often bears the biggest educational fruit. To paraphrase: "How many times do we learn more from the book next to the book we originally went to find on the shelf, or from the article after the article we looked up in the journal?" Hence, restricting access to content and technology out of fear for infringment can have a very real and direct impact on the ability of students to learn. [Note: Both Yahoo! and Google began as "unauthorized" Stanford student experiments with servers -- should those had been banned as well?]
Felten also pointed out (again, paraphrase) that servers are perhaps the single most revolutionary advance in self-publishing technology since the printing press. Students running their own servers are publishing and expressing themselves like never before. To take away this means of digital speech does academic freedom quite a disservice.
(2) Vaught also provided some numbers re: Penn State's "Lionshare" project that uses Neo-Napster to compete with P2P. Here's some of what he showed us:
- Contract signed since Nov. 5, 2003
- Spring semester -- Residence Halls Only
- Summer -- all students
- Fall - all students at all locations; faculty and staff for a fee
- Centrally funded -- no direct costs except to purchase tracks.
- 16,5000 residence students
- 75% have machines that can use the program (no Macs)
- 85% of those have signed up
- 100,000+ tracks per day in first few weeks
- Around 80,000 tracks per day toward end of semester.
Contract -- has study provisions
- Frequency of use
- 40% use it few times a week
- 35% every day
- 20% few times a month
- 15% never
Are you able to find the content you want?
-only 40 percent say yes.
How would you rate the purchase prices to burn tracks?
- excellent 2.5%
- good 10% (songs)/15% (album)
- average 20-25%
- fair 20-25%
- poor - 37%
- valued and new tracks not available
- macs not supported
- off campus students can't get it
- Teaching kids the right behavior
- Piracy may have decreased*
* On this last point, I asked Vaught what evidence he had that piracy had actually decreased. He admitted that he didn't have much empirical evidence and that, in fact, the number of DMCA infringement notices that they receive now is essentially the same as before the program. He did note, though, that he had anecdotal evidence that students were file-sharing less and that the DMCA notices were more regarding dial-up than broadband these days.