Administration should rethink approach to anti-piracy campaign

Peter Gillette

Universal Studios has Lawrence University running scared, and with good reason. Universal Studios found 10-15 bootlegged copies of Meet the Parents traced back to the LU network. Now, I don’t know why anyone would want to pirate anything but the first 30 minutes of that film. It devolves from smart beginnings into a dreadfully one-note (Focker) CIA farce. “It pisses me off that I have tons of Universal Studios movies, and they had an issue with the crappiest one. It makes me look like I have bad taste,” joked freshman Alissa Karnaky, one of the 10-15 Meet the Parents offenders called by Dean Truesdell during second term.

While the South Carolinian will be next year’s DFC president, few who have met her would deem her a threat to social order, despite her bad taste; she is no more a threat than the sundry students who break the spirit of the law with the implicit support of Residence Life.

Each weekend, dozens of Lawrence University students essentially borrow movies owned in common by residence halls. Each student ought to rent the movie from a real video store, ought each student not?

Or, better yet, each student should buy, say, Meet the Parents. After all of the to-do about piracy, I’m wondering why the Residence Life department can still justify its blatant attempt to send Robert DeNiro and Ben Stiller to the poorhouse.

Of course we don’t find anything wrong with this. Why not? Because nobody threatened to sue Lawrence University because of desk movies.

You see, we react to threats by moving into default enforcement mode. This is a mistake. Under such logic, we ought to install video cameras in classrooms. After all, isn’t dishonesty dishonesty?

The Meet the Parents example (involving copies available on Kazaa) differs from the cameras in the classroom analogy in that the dishonesty goes beyond the Lawrence webspace and into the “outside world,” at least electronically. So, maybe if textbook publishers threatened to sue all potential plagiarizers, the cameras would dutifully follow.

We should talk about this. Talking is what liberal arts schools do best. Leave the policing to the lawyers.

I envision a panel, or a lecture series, including, possibly, an ACLU rep, someone from the RIAA, ASCAP, a starving artist or two, some record label types, and perhaps those artists who use the internet and free trading to their advantage. There are several departments who could benefit from such a panel.

Piracy is now a normal part of our lives. No lawsuit will end that. We will end it; that is, if we want to, and if someone shows us that we should.

But Lawrence University has dealt with the problem of piracy as if the problem exists within a bubble, and has made no attempts to engage the students in a dialogue about the ethics of it all, save for a copyright-and-music session a couple weeks back at the con.

Regretfully, Lawrence has forgotten its mission as a liberal arts school; we have opted for the easy solution. Dean Truesdell has done her job, however annoying that job may be. Now, it’s up to us, somehow, to figure out what the right thing is.

After all, we did read Plato… right?