University of California touts copyright awareness

The University of California has instigated an incentivised awareness campaign that it hopes will deter its students from illegally accessing content.

A ‘Copyright Awareness’ page on the University’s website asks visitors to the module to take a few minutes to watch a video and then answer a few quiz questions. The quiz consists of a few questions which users will have an opportunity to retake it if they don’t pass. According to the University, passing the quiz will earn a free music download.

The page says, by way of explanation, that Copyright laws have been created in order to protect the rights of content owners. “The owners of these media, such music, movies and software have spent significant resources in both time and money to create their works. We at UCSF must be conscientious of the laws that protect these works. Here are some things you should know about legally consuming copyrighted content,” it advises.

“Downloading content without paying for it is stealing. It’s no different than walking into a store, grabbing a movie and leaving without paying for it. The practice of stealing copyrighted digital content is called pirating. Pirating is defined by the illegal downloading and sharing of music, movies and software,” it warns.

Furthermore, it adds: “There are consequences to stealing copyrighted content. These include: Removal of access to the UCSF network; Legal penalties; Possible expulsion.

It advises that “Often times users download malware or viruses that have been bundled with the stolen content. Malicious hackers do this to get you to install their malware on your computer. UCSF monitors its network very closely and takes measures to prevent users from downloading stolen copyrighted content. Remember that you can be personally and legally held liable if you steal such content,” it warns.

It recommends a range of measures to avoid illegal downloading:

  • Always use reputable sites to purchase and download music, movies and software.
  • Install the UCSF antivirus software to ensure you are not affected by a virus.
  • Make sure to get receipts for all content that you purchase.
  • Do not install filesharing programs. They often install malware, adware or spyware which exposes your computer to security risks.
  • Visit our site for more details.

The initiative has attracted the ire of TorrentFreak, the voice of filesharing protocol BitTorrent, which describes the anti-piracy campaign as “a most absurd and dramatic spin on the topic of copyright infringement,” noting that posters across campus claim that illegal downloading is a crime that “directly affects the funding for research, education and patient care”, alleging that the university falsely claims that using BitTorrent is considered a crime.

The posters, showing a $50,000 box office ticket, warn that piracy “directly affects the funding for research, education and patient care”. TorrentFreak suggests that UCSF provides no evidence or rationale for the “absurd2 claim, arguing that “To the best of our knowledge there is no direct link between piracy and any of the examples given.”

Digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) suggests that University’s message is inaccurate and misleading, with EFF staff attorney Mitch Stoltz telling TorrentFreak that making such a claim is “extraordinary”.

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