Yesterday Europe moved to smarten-up its legal music downloading rules to dissuade piracy, but today we learn that P2P illegal content-sniffer Audible Magic is being adopted by more U.S. universities—the punitive flip-side of the online music-sharing coin.
Audible Magic just announced that its software will be used by Bowling Green State, Middle Tennesse State, Prairie View A&M, Southern Nazarene, Florida, Redlands and Chicago universities, the University of the Incarnate Word, SUNY Plattsburgh, SUNY Geneseo and Morrisville State and South Texas Colleges. That means 12 more educational establishments are subjecting some 170,000 students to a system that monitors the traffic across the universities network to detect illegal music file sharing.
Audible's CopySense system sounds pretty clever—it listens in to data moving through the wires, and treats each packet it samples as an audio (or video) file, which it then compares against its database of copyright-protected content. There's a graduated response if it detects a positive match, that starts with alerting the user that he's infringing and then it moves up from there—the top option is suspension of network access. CopySense has been recently upgraded too, so it can now cope with networks with multiple gateways.
More interestingly, in the past it's been suggested that this technology is tantamount to wiretapping. That's because it "sniffs" the content of whichever packets it chooses to determine if they're illegal—a "guilty before proven innocent" intervention in what network users are up to. In contrast, Audible Magic touts its tech as being good for "educating our youth to become better digital citizens." But that's somewhat naive—it's like saying having Mom and Dad listen in on teenager's phone calls is for the kid's own good.
So why is Europe taking the seemingly enlightened step of facilitating legal digital music downloads in an attempt to battle piracy, while the U.S. is increasingly employing what appears to be regulated file-spying? It's thanks to the Higher Education Opportunity Act, as well as the Recording Industry Association of America and its aggressively 20th Century stance on digital music. Isn't it about time the RIAA took a leaf out of Europe's book, wised-up, and spent its cash trying to improve legal digital music downloads, instead of requiring colleges to waste money on systems like Audible Magic—money that would be far better spent on genuine education?
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