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Big Burns is Watching

My friend over at InsideHigherEd stumbled upon a novel approach to discouraging illegal P2P while allowing legitimate research usage:

In order to download (or upload) files on any peer-to-peer network whatsoever, all on-campus users have to pass an online quiz on copyright infringement.

But not just once. Passing the test — with a perfect score — enables peer-to-peer access for six hours on the user’s on-campus registered machines, presumably enough time to download that (legal) song, TV show or e-book. The next time, the student, staff or faculty member has to go to the intranet Web page and take the randomized test again, for a maximum of eight uses per month (which, kind of like vacation days, can accrue to at most 20).

While it’s certainly innovative, what’s the point? Nobody is better off, except maybe the RIAA when they use the quiz to show illegal downloading was “willful infringement,” which can bump damages up to $150,000 per song. Those intent on downloading tend to find creative workarounds , while those with legitimate needs are unduly hassled.

In the enterprise, we often hear that education of Net do’s and don’ts is critical, but randomized quizzes and P2P privilege accrual seems a pretty complicated way of doing it.

On the other hand, the statistics are impressive: The year before the program was implemented, the university got 800 copyright complaints; since, they’ve only received eight. Imagine the work productivity boost if you inserted to a picture of the boss every time an employee accessed a flash game or MySpace profile.

On second thought, no.

Back to work!

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