Earlier this year, Ohio University finished atop the recording industry’s infamous list of institutions receiving the most copyright-infringement notices. But these days the university is singing a much happier tune: Campus officials say a ban on illicit peer-to-peer networking has cut down on piracy without restricting legal file sharing.
Now that it’s no longer perched on top of the industry’s most-wanted list, Ohio seems eager to join the debate over campus song swapping. Yesterday the university played host to a forum — called “P2P File Sharing: A 360° Perspective” — on its Athens campus, and it has posted video of the event online.
The discussion included veterans from both sides of the file-sharing wars, but it devoted considerable time to remarks from several musicians, songwriters, and agents — who argued that music piracy hurts not just platinum-selling artists and record-company CEO’s, but also industry members who aren’t nearly so well paid. As some of the speakers acknowledged, that argument can be a hard sell: Stewart Harris, president of Edisto Sound, bemoaned the fact that some college students in the crowd shook their heads when he referred to copyright infringement as “stealing.”
Many college file swappers say they would like to offer financial support to the musicians they enjoy, according to officials at Illinois State University, which is conducting a series of in-depth campus-piracy studies. But the same students often say they have no desire to support the recording industry itself. Clearly, the industry’s controversial lawsuit campaign has caused a backlash, and the Ohio event was at its most interesting when panelists discussed that theme.
Jonathan Lamy, a spokesman for the Recording Industry Association of America, argued that the lawsuits jump-started “a national conversation, as painful as it may have been at times, that has generated a better understanding of the law.”
“If our marketplace is the digital marketplace,” he said, alluding to the rise of MP3’s and the decline in CD sales, “we need to protect that.”
But Timothy Vonville, president of the university’s Student Senate, said the RIAA’s methods of protecting its turf had deeply damaged the group’s standing with college students. “The real problem is with the procedure and attitude adopted by organizations like the RIAA,” he said. “Students feel intimidated. That’s the truth.”
And college students might start to act on their distaste for the recording industry, according to Mr. Vonville. Some college groups are considering a plan to protest the lawsuits, he said, by refusing to bring to their campuses any musical acts represented by the RIAA. —Brock Read