I’m spending the year at the University of Southern California on a Fulbright chair. Yesterday, some of my students forwarded me a memo sent to them by USC Deputy Chief Information Officer and Vice President for Student Affairs on “Copyright Compliance.”
It purports to inform students about the contours and boundaries of copyright, but actually presents a collection of scare-tactic half-truths and astonishing statements about the purpose of the university.
In the letter, USC’s officers promise to spend students’ tuition on policing them on behalf of the entertainment industry, but make no comparable promise to protect them from the thousands of automated, baseless accusations generated by the RIAA, MPAA and BSA.
Worse, the letter completely mis-states the relationship between copyright and scholarship, omitting any mention of fair use and the other user rights in copyright (especially important in an institution like USC with excellent arts programs, where students are apt to making daily unauthorized uses of copyrighted works for the purpose of criticism and study), and making the extraordinary statement that “USC’s purpose is to promote and foster the creation and lawful use of intellectual property.” (If this is true, the USC will be “successful” when it generates copyrights and patents, not when it generates scholars and diplomas)