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Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

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Copyfight

« New NPD Study: P2P Recommends CDs for Its Users Who Buy CDs | Main | Penn State v. Education II »

May 20, 2004

Penn State v. Education?

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You know those terrible airport bookstores -- the ones with Danielle Steele bestsellers everywhere and not a drop to read? Ever try to find something in such a bookstore to keep you mentally stimulated for the full duration of a five-hour flight?

Now imagine what it would be like if the world was set up like an airport, with every choice -- even your reading materials -- dictated exclusively by the bottom line. Let's say you had to do your Master's thesis using books made available to you solely on the basis of whether or not someone, somewhere, was making a whole lot of money. These books would be your only tools of study, so you'd have to make do. Your thesis: "Trope Density Analysis of Steele's 'Passion Flower': Sexual Metaphors and Learning."

Okay, so that's completely ridiculous. So why do we see Penn State doing to computer-scientists-in-training precisely what airports do to us? In what universe of social values is it acceptable to restrict/inhibit/extinquish self-driven and truly field-tested learning -- the kind that Bill Gates did in his dorm room at Harvard, before he created an industry -- because we're worried about selling more Britney Spears CDs? Especially when we're not even close to sure that Bill is actually hurting Britney's sales?

Larry Lessig likes to talk about what he calls "permission culture." Often, he's referring to permission to use copyrighted materials. But Penn State school officials are forcing students to get a faculty member's permission to set up a server. For a computer researcher, this is tantamount to asking permission to learn. Meanwhile, because Penn State has partnered with Napster 2, everyone gets automatic access to Britney.

Please. What's wrong with this picture? And why can't Penn State see it?

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Abuse


COMMENTS

1. Frank Field on May 20, 2004 2:08 PM writes...

You know, when we started seeing Penn State's moves in this area, I had to keep resisting the the temptation simply to write them off as having been bought off by the record industry, particularly with the RIAA's chief counsel on the board of trustees -- too much "tin foil cap" conspiracy for anyone to credibly accept.

But, to see them completely abdicate their educational responsibilities through draconian policies openly acknowledged as directed at blocking copyright infringement; it's getting harder and harder to explain their behavior any other way except as having either (a) sold out or (b) caved in to the copyright cartel.

I would *love* to hear what the EE/CS faculty have to say about this policy. Are they making it easy to get "permission?" Or are they helping to reinforce the vice provost?

Frank

Permalink to Comment

2. Frank Field on May 20, 2004 3:12 PM writes...

Hi, Donna:

A little digging around the PSU WWW site suggests that the policy that was cited in not perhaps written down. In fact, the current user agreement contradicts the claims of the vice provost -- possibly a matter of wishful thinking? Or an unwritten policy?

http://msl1.mit.edu/furdlog/index.php?p=1928

Frank

Permalink to Comment

3. Donna Wentworth on May 20, 2004 3:17 PM writes...

What do you make of this: http://www.rescom.psu.edu/pages/firewallexceptions.htm
?

Permalink to Comment

4. Frank Field on May 20, 2004 4:12 PM writes...

You win! I even read through AD20 once before, but missed the requirement.

Thanks!

Frank

Permalink to Comment

5. Branko Collin on May 23, 2004 9:10 PM writes...

I don't understand what the fuss is about. It's not as if there is a huge shortage of universities on the planet. So, Penn State disqualifies itself as a place of learning. That just makes it easier for prospective students to choose a real university, and for potential employers to value the real worth of a Penn State diploma.

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