Vanderbilt students offer music piracy solutions

At Vanderbilt University, college students – the group most targeted by the recording industry for prosecution for illegal downloading – are proposing solutions instead of complaining.

Ten first-year students in the "Stealing in Music City" seminar were challenged to re-invent the music industry for a fair model of music distribution that eliminated, or at least discouraged, music piracy.

The class divided into three groups to devise a workable system for distributing music that delivers content for a reasonable price and allows songwriters, artists and other stakeholders to get paid. While each group approached the solution differently, there were common threads.

The government needs to be more involved.

All the students agreed that the government needs to regulate the usage of DRM (digital rights management), which individual companies like Sony, Apple and Microsoft currently use.

"Fewer DRM rules make purchasing [versus pirating] music much more appealing," said Vanderbilt student Leslie Miller.

Other suggestions for more government involvement included:

  • Actually running a neutral, nonprofit peer-to-peer network.
  • Holding peer-to-peer network owners responsible for registering and policing users.
  • Overseeing mandatory copyright education at the elementary and middle school level.

If consumers want peer-to-peer networks, give it to them via subscription services.

"Instead of looking for a solution, the RIAA has attacked consumers," noted Vanderbilt student Brian Wilke. "Not much progress has been made."

The students agreed that peer-to-peer networks are hugely popular, and rather than fighting them groups like the RIAA and record labels should join them and offer subscription services at reasonable rates for consumers.

While one group thought the government should create and oversee such a subscription service, the other students felt that a collective licensing arrangement, similar to the one employed by BMI, ASCAP and SESAC for radio broadcasts, would be effective.

Education, particularly among young people, is crucial to stopping music piracy.

"It’s amazing to me how many students don’t understand the legalities of sharing intellectual property and copyrighted material," Sara Manus, education and outreach librarian, said. "But none of the students have had an education in copyright law – they listen to their peers about what they can and cannot do." Manus and colleague Holling Smith-Borne, director of the music library at Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music, co-taught the class.

"I admit that I used LimeWire before this class," said student Rachel Koblin. She went on to propose that education about piracy and copyright laws be implemented in public schools in a plan similar to No Child Left Behind.

Other students agreed that education in schools, the earlier the better, was important. One group even proposed "Project Rock the Schools," a series of concerts across the nation to help fund education about copyright.

Media contact: Missy Pankake, (615) 322-NEWS

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