Tackling College Piracy: MPAA and RIAA’s Favorite

In part one of our look into the anti-piracy efforts at universities, we saw that Missouri S&T used a simple home grown system, ignoring the favorites of the entertainment industry. In part two, we look at Ohio University, Texas A&M University, Tulane University and others that do use one of the methods preferred by the RIAA and MPAA.

Ohio University (OU) and 7 other universities decided that blocking the many legitimate uses for P2P is not the best idea. Instead they have decided to go the high-tech route instead. They went for the method touted by the music industry, and paraded by the RIAA around Capitol Hill in 2004. A ‘fingerprint’ recognition service called ‘Copysense‘.

Copysense works by listening in on ALL network traffic, and looking for data patterns that match signatures, or ‘fingerprints’ loaded on it. If it detects data packets matching one of its signatures, it terminates the connection by sending forged RST packets to both sides of the connection (Comcast anyone?).

Piracy detection services like Copysense are not cheap. Ohio University paid around $60,000 in 2007 for the system, and an additional $15,500 a year for updates and support. For this, they got a network monitoring box, and some questionable results that prompt more questions than answers, but we will discuss these another time.

There are more issues though, a system working in promiscuous mode is also a big security risk. Passwords, and user names, if transmitted unencrypted, are observable, as is any other traffic sent in the clear. When J. Brice Bible, the CIO at Ohio University, took up his post, it was in the wake of data security breaches. Now he has paid tens of thousands of dollars for a box that can potentially cause a similar breach. Of course, potentially any network client can do this, but only on their local network, not the entire university network.

Ohio University seems to be happy with the entertainment industry’s favorite anti-piracy system. Of course, the less skeptical amongst us would think that outgoing head of the WIPO being an alumni is pure coincidence, as is the CEO of Fox News. People with a strong pro-copyright agenda having contact with an early adopter of a technology pushed heavily by the MPAA and RIAA, is something that rose some eyebrows at the TorrentFreak office though.

Regardless, Ohio University claims the program has been a success. Speaking in the student newspaper, Bible said, “It works very well for today, (but) I don’t know if it will work well tomorrow or the next day or the year after. I want to hear from students … I think students should be engaged in this discussion—and faculty, too.”

If you’re a student at Ohio University, or one of the other universities that use Copysense, why not let him know, and get involved.

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