Copyright, Intellectual Property, Law Schools, Music, Reader Polls, Technology

Brooklyn Law Won’t Proactively Rat Out Its Students

Brooklyn law school logo.JPGYesterday we reported on this announcement by Brooklyn Law School:

This semester we have received several warnings from our Internet service provider that copyrighted movies and TV shows are being downloaded illegally via our wireless network. The Information Technology office is now ascertaining who is doing this. Once we have names of the individuals involved, we intend to give them to the copyright holders for enforcement purposes.

This stance proved unpopular with BLS students, as well as ATL readers. In a poll, about 75 percent of readers answered “yes” when asked, “Should Brooklyn Law School do more to protect its students from being sued for illegal downloading?”
It seems that Brooklyn Law School has had a change of heart. Check out the email that went out this afternoon, plus selected reader comments, after the jump.

Brooklyn has softened its stance on illegal downloading. It will notify downloaders and tell them to desist from their illegal activity, consistent with the DMCA procedures. Here’s the email:

From: Phil Allred
Sent: Thursday, October 29, 2009 12:08 PM
To: All Users
Subject: [BLS] Update on illegal downloads e-mail notice

Yesterday, I sent out an e-mail regarding the recent spate of abuse notices we have received from our Internet service provider. Under our contract, users are prohibited from downloading copyrighted works. If we knowingly allow such activity to continue without taking action, we risk losing access to the Internet.

When we can ascertain the people who are responsible for alleged illegal downloads, we will notify them to cease such activity. We will comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Outside of the legal process, we are not obligated to turn over the names of the alleged infringers to copyright holders and will not do so.

And here are some selected comments from the thread. We have focused on the comments addressing the illegal downloading issue, ignoring the “BLS sucks” / “No it doesn’t” debate. (And yes, for the record, Brooklyn is an ABA-accredited law school.)
10 – Go ahead and snitch. It would be hypocritical of BLS to preach an honor code and the tenets of professional responsibility if they turned a blind eye to illegal downloading.
11 – 66 thousand dollars [in tuition and costs]. Per year. For three years. BLS students, you’d better pray for some Tito-style inflation.
15 – 10, It would also be hypocritical for a BLS representative to utter the word “honor” while ruining the lives of hundreds of twenty-somethings per year.
27 – but if you had a reasonable expectation that BLS would not divulge your name without a subpoena when you downloaded the copyrighted pornographic material, and then BLS did not meet these expectations, is there some, i don’t know, restatement section that might give rise to a cause of action?
30 – From the research I’ve done on this topic, I believe that the media ownership companies (Viacom, Universal, etc) are going to begin to sue schools where illegal downloading is rampant under some sort of vicarious/ contributory theory (that doesn’t really exist in the law). Although it probably won’t stand up in court, you’re looking at Universal with its billions of dollars vs. Schlub State University who can barely afford to keep toilet paper in the bathrooms. I think the fear of being buried in legal costs is what prompted Brooklyn Law to be proactive rather than reactive.
31 – Actually, the DMCA provides a safe harbor provision for ISPs. Few if any undergrad institutions actively search for illegal material on the network, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a law school doing it. If students want their warez that bad, they can download them at home. Just remember to disable your torrent program when you come to school.
32 – Seriously?!? This is even a debate? The students broke the law. If the school knows who the students are, they ought to tell the proper authorities. Is it really that hard to understand that a law school would take steps to ENFORCE THE LAW? This is common sense folks. Just because you don’t like the law does not make it optional.
34 – This is pretty shitty. They are not just informing, they are investigating and informing. And no warning to students? I’m sure that the student(s) who are doing the downloading (and who are paying buttloads of $$ to BLS) would have appreciated a warning when BLS first got the notices or otherwise in time to stop.
39 – 31… I think BLS, or any school, would have a stone cold defense under the DMCA, but that wouldn’t stop the big media owners from suing. Also, if I recall, the safe harbor is removed once the ISP is notified of the illegal activity. At my law school, they simply revoked the wireless privileges of the student. I went to undergrad during the first heyday of Napster so this was before the media owners figured out who to sue and how.
40 – The notion that BLS’s half-assed IT department could carry this off is laughable.
41 – 39 – While you were an undergrad, I was in charge of network security policy and incident response for a Research-1 university. So long as the universities uphold their responsibilities under the safe harbor (e.g., take down infringing content), the content owners cannot come after them. End of story. [Ed. note: This comment appears to represent the correct statement of the law. See BLS’s email below.]
51 – Why, in this day and age, would any law school give up their students to face financial penalties. My god, this reduces the amount of potential pools of cash that the schools can steal from their kids.
58 – This is pretty harsh. Way back when I was in law school in the NY area (a whole three years ago) I received notice from the school’s IT that I was accused of downloading Sopranos episodes. I didn’t do it, but I guess the wireless router that I had kept open was being used. I would have been incensed if I had been ratted out over a misunderstanding.
72 – Why should students be allowed to use a law school’s internet to illegally download anything? Why is this even a question? I think quite a few law schools monitor this activity and most I have heard will contact you to inform you that you need to cut it out. It might seem mean to go ahead and turn someone in, but whatever – you’re breaking the law and you’re a law student. Why should the school allow you to use their internet to do it?
76 – Over the 2+ years I have been a student there, the BLS student body has been REPEATEDLY warned about illegal downloading. The administration has been threatening this particular action all year so I’m not really sure why everyone is acting so damn surprised.
77 – I remember my first day at BLS in 2003- Dean Wexler , almost immediately after saying “welcome,” told us that BLS would rat out any students caught downloading music. Very warm welcome.
Earlier: Is Brooklyn Law School Informing On Its Own Students?

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