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Campus Anti-Piracy Fight Reaches Congress

The Recording Industry Association of America's (RIAA) latest offensive against online piracy at U.S. colleges arrived at the doorsteps of Congress Wednesday with RIAA boss Hilary Rosen declaring it a "growing epidemic."

Rosen, who will quit as RIAA chairman and CEO at the end of this year, testified before a key House panel on the evils of peer-to-peer network piracy at universities nationwide, warning that a "substantial portion" of the 2.6 billion files that are downloaded illegally every month comes from college computer systems.

"The unauthorized P2P file sharing problem poses tremendous difficulties not only for copyright owners and artists, but also for administrators on our nations' college campuses," Rosen told the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property.

"Rampant file sharing of music and video content imposes a heavy toll on all of us. Despite education campaigns about the illegality of file sharing, and despite numerous court decisions clearly holding that copying music, movies and other copyrighted files is against the law, there is an alarming disregard among students for Internet theft," she said in testimony before the Committee, which is chaired by Texas Congressman Lamar Smith.

Rosen's appearance in Washington comes as the recording industry is training it's anti-piracy guns on students in 2,300 college campuses. The RIAA and other trade groups sent a letter to college administrators last October seeking the co-operation of network administrators to eliminate the peer-to-peer networks.

In her testimony, Rosen spelled out the association's stance and warned that file-sharing abuses had "overtaxed numerous college computer systems, slowing processing of legitimate information to a crawl due to the uncommonly large number and size of files being uploaded and downloaded."

She urged additional "proactive steps" to stop the "unlawful P2P applications that have found almost instantaneous acceptance among college students."

In strong language, the RIAA boss condemned the "alarming disregard" for theft of copyrighted works on government-subsidized computer networks. "Despite education campaigns about the illegality of file sharing, and despite numerous court decisions clearly holding that copying music, movies and other copyrighted files is against the law, there is an alarming disregard among students for internet theft," she declared.

"Moreover, students are often unaware of the dangers of these P2P applications: compromising campus network security, making their own hard drives containing their personal data available to others, and opening the campus networks to computer viruses," Rosen said.

With Penn State University president Graham Spanier and president of the University of North Carolina Molly Borbett Broad listening to her testimony, Rosen said 75 percent of all file-sharing on campus networks come from outside the university community. "Campus systems, with their fast connections, find themselves hosting total strangers," she warned.

Dr. John Hale, Center for Computer Security at the University of Tulsa, was also scheduled to testify before the House Panel.