Allegations of widespread online copyright infringement on college campuses continue to flourish. Two recent developments:
- Word on the street is that online entertainment company Cdigix is closing its doors and shutting down its service. Along with Ruckus, Cdigix was one of only two online entertainment services that specifically and exclusively targeted college campuses. It’s been a busy few weeks for Cdigix and Ruckus. Just a few weeks ago, Cdigix announced that they had joined Internet2. Days later, Ruckus began allowing all American college students to install their software and download music. One wonders how these events are all connected. One further wonders if Ruckus’ new business model will prove to be more successful than Cdigix’s. Finally, one must wonder what impact these events will have on the perception and evolution of this phenomenon, particularly their potential impact on legislators interested in this topic and those who influence them. (Update: The Chronicle has a story about this with some choice quotes – more on this later.)
- A few recent articles in the popular press continue to cloud this issue with unsupportable claims and ridiculous hyperbole. In particular, I deplore the (distressingly popular) practice of conflating copyright infringement with piracy. Without going into a discussion of why we have separate laws regarding theft of physical goods and infringement of copyright, I think it’s clear to everyone that comparing someone accused of downloading or distributing a song with his or computer with one who plunders a ship on the high seas is, at best, silly. Language is powerful. Labeling one who engages in copyright infringement a “pirate” to take advantage of centuries of emotional connections and imagery associated with piracy is inaccurate, misleading, and dishonest. Copyright infringement is unlawful and often unethical; we don’t need to confuse the issue with inappropriate, emotional, and dishonest language. If the Columbia Missourian can get it right, why can’t the Chronicle of Higher Education and other more popular and mainstream publications?