Ohio University Blocking P2P Traffic

Ohio University is on a questionable path, in my opinion. It’s interesting that many universities use different rhetorics to explain the need for control of P2P resources. Although the overconsumption of bandwidth can very much be a problem with P2P applications- especially on a high-bandwidth university connection- there are other alternatives, like limits on bandwidth consumption or throttling network traffic. Those tactics come with their own difficulties, ethical and logistical, particularly in their initial implementations, but I think them better solutions than outright banning a technology. There are even other ways to encourage legitimate and responsible P2P use. Ohio University representatives say that bandwidth is the problem- they’re banning P2P “to ensure that every student, faculty member and researcher has access to the computer resources they need”- but then they immediately follow that justification with a notice about those technologies often being used to share copyrighted works followed by a paragraph about the RIAA’s tactics and concerns. The FAQ they link to mentions “respect for intellectual property” and notes that P2P is often used “in direct violation of copyright law.” They all but call students that use P2P applications unethical. They acknowledge that sometimes P2P can be used for legitimate purposes, but have decided to have students request exceptions when necessary, and they’ll judge whether or not the use is appropriate. That seems a bit backwards to me for an educational institution that values intellectual freedom for a variety of reasons. (Note, I am not saying that intellectual freedom = do what thou wilt.) I understand the temptation. I’ve had to deal with DMCA cease and desists received by students, and I know it takes time. But I think this action is a bit heavy handed. I would very much complain if UT did something like this- I and others use bittorrent to download legitimate materials fairly regularly. We also have many students that legitimately use P2P applications, some for class- applications such as Skype. Skype isn’t on their list, though, so I’m not sure if that will trigger their block. I’d be surprised if it didn’t, since it’s one of the more problematic bandwidth-wise, if users aren’t careful. I also wonder if it will stop students from updating games from their dorms, since P2P is now a fairly common way to receive updates.

Universities need to better educate students about these issues and about these technologies. University administrators often need to make the effort to learn about all of these subjects themselves. If they’re going to make an ethical argument, they need to clearly demonstrate the ethics involved. “Students pirate” is not something that simply needs to be accepted as a matter of common understanding. I don’t think administrators generally give students enough credit about their decision-making capabilities or rationales. At the very lease, I’ve found students more than willing to discuss the legal, ethical, and other issues involved with P2P and copyright. There’s a research topic…

7 Comments

  1. Posted 5/16/2007 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Yeah you would think they would come up with a alternative to control the bandwidth. Hopefully they will listen to what you have to say about the matter you should actually forward this to them.

  2. Posted 5/16/2007 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    P2P has couple of problems:
    1st: it requeired much bandwidth and 2nd: it’s used for exchanging such material, what’s usually is against copyright.
    So the decission to block p2p traffic for UNIVERITY is logical.

  3. Posted 5/16/2007 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    It can use a great deal of bandwidth, but banning the technology is problematic. And although that technology can be used to infringe copyright, it also has legitimate uses- and I only see those legitimate uses growing over the next few years, as distributors move to wards Bittorrent, Joost, and other P2P services. At best, I see their actions as a short term solution that will need to be revisited in the near future.

  4. Posted 6/2/2007 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    I think the solution should be a creative and not just plain old banning. Dont cut the head because you have headache.

    -Emily

  5. Ban Away
    Posted 7/9/2008 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Wow, everyone getting on the bandwagon hissing at the University for trying to do what is best and in their case right.
    It’s always the bleeding hearts that cry..”oh don’t block me, I didn’t offend”, even though they don’t use the applications. We have the same thing here at work.
    We pay our provider for our bandwidth…those costs are consistently going up. A portion and a fairly good one is because of p2p apps and people pirating on our high-speed network. We have had multiple RIAA notifications and have dealt with those as they come along.
    Let’s see…how you feel about this. We won’t block anything, but if you are caught, you will be fired or kicked out of school, loose any credits you may have earned at the school, have a report sent to any entity governing any certifications you may have, get fined for your actions, oh, and go to jail. You will also have to own up to the fact that you were caught and not try to fight any of the above actions against you.

    If you are willing to go along with that and sign it, then holy Hanna, I’ll stop the blocking now. But if you belly ache, whine cry or boo hoo in any way shape or form, when you are caught, the we will come down on you like a ton of bricks and ruin your life.

    Any takers………I thought not.

    No one will agree to that because they’ll whine that it isn’t fair, or that the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. Hey, the word is “CRIME”, hence illegal and you should not do it. That you knowingly did something illegal, that cost us money and put our good name in jeapordy, we should lighten up. YA RIGHT.

  6. Posted 7/9/2008 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Peer to peer technologies have lawful uses.

    There is no way for a technology to adequately determine whether a given use is or is not infringing.

    Universities have a responsibility to protect academic freedoms.

  7. johngeorge
    Posted 8/28/2008 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Universities need to better educate students about these issues and about these technologies. University administrators often need to make the effort to learn about all of these subjects themselves.We know that the overconsumption of bandwidth can very much be a problem with P2P applications.These type of tactics come with their difficulties, in their initial implementations.But better think new before banning a technology.
    *************************************************************
    john
    Ohio Alcohol Addiction Treatment