The View From The Outside: Reactions to Stanford’s Reconnection Fee

It’s instructive to step outside the world of higher education to see how we’re viewed from the outside. Sometimes it’s enlightening and sometimes it’s just entertaining.  But it’s always important for us to know how those outside higher education (potential students, alumni, parents, legislators, community members, etc.) view us and our actions.

Stanford University has instituted a re-connection fee for students who are the target of a DMCA notice. In general, the idea of charging a reconnection fee after a student has violated a policy is not new; over 2 years ago, a handful of respondents (8%) to the 2005 ResNet Survey (pdf file of the results of Section 6 of the survey) indicated they charged such a fee. Ray Beckerman received a copy of the notice that Stanford sent to its students and posted it in his blog under the heading “Stanford Adopts Policy: Assume RIAA is Right.” Slashdot also posted a link to the notice but under the slightly more innocuous title “Stanford To Charge Reconnect Fee For DMCA Notices.” The Chronicle of Higher Education allowed Stanford to respond in their story on the new policy. The Chronicle noted that “Stanford would give students ample opportunity to contest infringement notices and would waive the fines for students who received ‘problematic’ complaints.” Lauren Schoenthaler, a lawyer for Stanford, said that they are “not out there trying to add insult to injury by charging people who receive bogus complaints.”

It’s worth reading through the comments in Ray’s blog posting and the Slashdot story. Yes, the title for Ray’s posting is misleading and inaccurate. Yes, many or most of the comments are off-base, knee-jerk, and ignorant of many of the basic facts of this specific situation and the general situation. At the end of the day, however, that’s how people are reacting and what they are thinking and it’s vitally important that we understand and keep abreast of those reactions and thoughts.