Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ohio University Pays Dr. Doug Jacobson's company $60,000 Plus $16,000 a year in "maintenance"; suddenly RIAA letters stop!

It was reported in Ohio University's online publication, "thepost", that after Ohio University paid $60,000 for Dr. Doug Jacobson's "copySense" software by "Audible Magic", and an additional $16,000-per-year in "maintenance", the RIAA's "settlement" letters stopped:

Today, the university uses a nearly $60,000 software and hardware package from Audible Magic to stop file sharing on its network and pays about $16,000 for support, maintenance and regular database updates that allow the system, called CopySense, to detect newly released music.

CopySense compares small portions of copyrighted music files to network traffic. If a match is found, an information technology employee reviews the information and decides whether to deny Internet access to the computer.

The RIAA is still sending DMCA notices, but has received more attention for its monthly waves of about 400 pre-litigation settlement letters, which allege that computers on college campuses nationwide are sharing music. Those letters demanded recipients pay an average of $3,500 to settle a potential copyright infringement lawsuit by multiple record companies.

OU received 100 such letters by mid-April, but has received none since it began using CopySense.
Complete article

Dr. Jacobson is the RIAA's all-purpose, "disinterested" expert witness. For details about Dr. Jacobson's financial interest in Audible Magic, see Dr. Jacobson's deposition testimony and related exhibits in UMG v. Lindor.

Commentary & discussion:

Keywords: digital copyright online law legal download upload peer to peer p2p file sharing filesharing music movies indie independent label freeculture creative commons pop/rock artists riaa independent mp3 cd favorite songs

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The above donation button links to a PayPal account established by Marie Lindor's family for people who may wish to make financial contributions to Ms. Lindor's legal defense in UMG v. Lindor. Contributions are not tax deductible.


Marc W. Bourgeois said...

It's not that uncommon in this day for a university to employ draconian network level "solutions" to copyright infringement. What is surprising is that it is legal for a service provider to interfere with its customers network traffic in such an intrusive manner.

The fact that the RIAA letters stopped just means they aren't sending them. It doesn't mean that any amount of infringement actually stopped, or was actually occurring in the first place.

Also, I'd bet the RIAA gets a cut of the $16K maintenance because audible magic likely has to pay for the rights to catalog new content to block. Why would the RIAA send letters to an institution when that institution is indirectly funding them? If they did it would make it harder for other universities to justify purchasing this thing, and thus would stifle further revenue. Sounds like incentive for the letters to stop to me.

StephenH said...

Waste of money, I think. I have a feeling that the RIAA has cost colleges enourmus sums of money by installing devices like CopySense and Packeteer. I personally beleive dorms should be treated as homes, and not require blocking in their residence halls. I also think that if RIAA insists on colleges installing things like this, the RIAA itself should pay for the device. I wish someone would do a study on the real costs of P2P campus blocking to the colleges, and the costs to the colleges of all these IP address log searches. I personally beleive that this has played a role in the tutition hikes colleges have experienced in the last few years.

Scott said...

Is that what you lawyers call a quid pro quo?

Does it have the appearance of extortion? By whom?

bbsux said...

Is this some kind of conflict of interest?

Unknown said...

When does legal bulling cross the line to become criminal extortion? I can't tell anymore.

raybeckerman said...

stephen and marc.... sorry to say, you've missed the main points....

scott, bbsux, and matthew..... you got it....

raybeckerman said...

1. read "protection" where it says "maintenance"

2. read "extortion" where it says "settlement"

3. read "profit making extortionate whore" where it says "disinterested expert witness".... oops, it doesn't say "disinterested expert witness" anywhere...

Anonymous said...

So does this actually indemnify the students against RIAA suits? If so, this
is a pretty good deal for the students if the cost to their tuition for this is lower than the average cost of folding to the RIAA suit * the liklihood of suit (but still a bad deal for the university). Now I'm not for paying off trolls, but
look at what this buys the students:

The filter doesn't work well and is relatively easy to bypass. It doesn't touch http/ftp/email traffic (supposedly) so students can route traffic over those ports. It sounds like it works off of a fingerprint system(PDF warning) - modify the file and thus fingerprint, and the file shouldn't (theoretically) be blocked. Fingerprinting, which is usually worthless with re-encodable digital media, is much better employed by hoststhan networks. Plus if it really is fingerprinting the files, how does it deal with non sequential bits being transferred - like what bittorrent does?

It likewise can't deal with encrypted traffic, and aside from the encrypted p2p apps (waste, freenet, others) bittorrent traffic is now trivial to encrypt. So students still can share files on p2p networks. Can/will the RIAA come after them even after this? TFA doesn't say. It may also gives students plausible deniability - "I thought any traffic not blocked was ok".

Now the bad: Ed Felton suggests this application is dangerous to security, let alone privacy. There is no guarantee the filter can't and won't be expanded to cover http or email ports (pop, imap, smtp, etc) - thus raising serious privacy concerns (in fact it may violate wiretapping laws). I don't see a privacy statement, but I'd hope Ohio students get one regarding content monitored by this system. Additionally, if in an attempt to stop circumvention, the filter broadens past known fingerprints it may not be able to discern from legal p2p traffic and illegal. So a band promoting an album on p2p would get blocked from reaching this audience.

The whole company just seems to me largely like a gimmick that doesn't work, sold because of a combination of marketing and the desperation/hyper-sensitivity website and network admins. The idea sounds good on paper, but just doesn't work in reality. And they've hooked huge websites (youtube, dailymotion,, myspace, and others), universities such as this one, and the RIAA itself. I guess a better word for that is "scam" or worse.

I think you're analysis right though - clearly this is a conflict of interest and Dr. Jacobson should be forever barred from testifying regarding this subject, so long as he has an interest in this company. More importantly, as you point out, since this seems to be the only "RIAA endorsed solution" that will bay the hounds, why wouldn't this be racketeering? If the RIAA had implicitly (or explicitly, whatever the case with this company is) endorsed a few solutions, then it may be ok (so long as they don't have an interest in all endorsed companies), but that isn't the situation at hand.

Reluctant Raconteur said...

protection racket aside, I would think that this violates fair use if the default action is deny access.

As a practical matter, I wonder what actions OSU takes. Is there a 'allowable" threshold? If not, I think that a significant % of the students are going to be kicked off the network given the P2P penetration in Universities.

Another Kevin said...

Hmm, you said for "maintenance", read "protection." I'd rather leave the word "maintenance" right where it is, in the sense of "barratry, champerty and maintenance."