Internet rights group urges colleges not to monitor students

WASHINGTON,D.C. — The Electronic Privacy Information Center, EPIC, has called onuniversity and college presidents to use caution in adopting policies formonitoring college computer networks for copyright infringement.The openletter released by EPIC on Nov. 6 is a response to a letter sent in October bymembers of the recording and film industries, which outlined “an urgentmatter regarding copyright infringement by some university students.” Theentertainment industry has pressed college and university presidents to monitorfile-sharing on campus networks. But EPIC, a non-profit research centerfocusing on right to privacy and emerging civil liberties issues, warns thatsuch monitoring could compromise students’ First Amendmentrights.The music and motion picture industries claim the boom over thelast several years in file-sharing through high-speed Internet access,especially on college campuses, has raised concerns. Along with copyrightinfringement, the letter suggests susceptibility to overloading college networksand security breeches as potential problems for college computernetworks.The Recording Industry Association of America, the MotionPicture Association of America, the National Music Publishers’ Associationand the Songwriters’ Guild of America all signed the Oct. 3 letter.According to Chris Hoofnagle, legislative counsel for EPIC, the concernsraised by the music and film industry are reasonable; however, the suggestion ofmonitoring for copyright compliance presents universities with a burden they donot need to assume. “Network monitoring can have a chilling effecton the marketplace of ideas,” said EPIC’s Nov. 6 letter. “Inorder to monitor at the level desired by the copyright industry, to detect filetransfers ‘without authorization,’ institutions would have to delveinto the content and intended uses of almost every communication. Such a levelof monitoring is not only impracticable; it is incompatible with intellectualfreedom,” the letter said.Hoofnagle said that some schools haveinitiated “bandwidth monitoring,” which can prevent some of theoverloading problems suggested in the film and music industry letter.Hesaid he is unaware of any schools that have gone to the lengths of monitoringthat [the music and film industry] have requested.“I think mostschools probably realize there’s a problem with it,” hesaid.