Welcome back to school, college students! Better watch out, because the RIAA is prosecuting students who download music files illegally and if you engage in these activities, you may be next. (At least we want you to believe you could be next.)

Here is the email sent to all Spring 2006 students at Texas Tech this year:

RIAA Warning to Students

This email was doubtless sent by university officials because of liability concerns they have themselves due to the RIAA’s legal actions. By sending this email warning to all students, the university (it could be argued in court) is making a good-faith effort to educate students about copyright law and prevent them from acting illegally.

For some informative counter-points to this institutional view of file sharing, I would encourage you to read the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s website on file sharing. Is everyone downloading music files on the Internet a criminal? The RIAA wants everyone to believe that. But that is not the case. Certainly there are people doing illegal things online, and I am not condoning their actions. But there is a lot more to this debate over intellectual property (IP) than the simple contention: FILE SHARING BAD. FILE SHARERS CRIMINALS.

I think it is quite interesting to see the ways educational organizations actively seek to create perceptions of fear (on the part of students) in an attempt to change user behavior. This email message concerning file sharing is one example. Another can be found in schools implementing one to one technology initiatives, where students have come to believe that “big brother is watching” when they are online at school, so they “better watch out.” Both situations may be warranted and even necessary given our current legal copyright climate and the natural inclinations of students, but I think the tendency in schools is to conservatively over-regulate student behavior, which can be potentially problematic.

We live in interesting times.

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One Response to Creating perceptions of fear

  1. […] This is another example of educational organizations seeking to create perceptions of fear among users to modify behavior, which I have written about previously. I am not advocating for illegal file sharing or copyright violations. I am an advocate for better education on intellectual property issues, however, and this situation certainly falls into that category. […]

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