April 14, 2005

Panel Discussion to Explore File Sharing

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Tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Call Auditorium of Kennedy Hall, a panel of experts will participate in “The Download Debate Strikes,” a forum on digital downloading. The forum is open to the public and will be streamed live on the Internet.

The panel, moderated by dean of students Kent Hubbell, includes prominent representatives from many different organizations involved in the digital download debate.

According to Hubbell, each panelist will have a chance to articulate his position before the audience prior to a question-and-answer session from the audience. Those watching the streaming broadcast on the Internet will also be able to submit questions electronically.

Representing the major media organizations are Alec French, Senior Counsel, NBC/Universal; Cary Sherman, President of the Recording Industry Artists of America (RIAA); and Fritz Attaway, Executive Vice President for the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

Senior Director of Business and Legal Affairs Avery Kotler will represent Napster, the digital music service currently offered free of charge to Cornell students.

Fred Von Lohmann, Senior staff attorney of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), will appear on behalf of the non-profit group. EFF, according to its website, is a group of “passionate people — lawyers, technologists, volunteers, and visionaries working to protect your digital rights,”

Finally, New York University Professor of Communications Siva Vaidhyanathan will provide an academic perspective. Vaidhyanathan is the recent author of “Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How it Threatens Creativity.”

Those who organized the event said that their intent was primarily educational. Tracy Mitrano, Director of University Computer Policy and Law said she hopes to garner “more interest in information about digital copyright for the entire Cornell community.”

“It’s an educational program to educate the community,” said Hubbell. “This is just one aspect of this process — to bring a lot of these issues home.”

Instead of focusing on theoretical or rhetorical aspects of downloading, the panel will focus on practical solutions to file sharing, said Hubbell.

In an e-mail he sent to the panelists, Hubbell wrote, “The event’s success will be measured not by the extent to which well-known positions are eloquently presented, but by the extent to which the panel and audience has explored the strategies that could yield a vibrant future for digital downloading.”

Students have expressed an interest in Hubbell’s search for practical answers to an issue often characterized by nuanced and technical debate.

“It’s an interesting issue because students have outsmarted corporate America. They have found ways around copyrighted material. It will be interesting to hear how the industries will attempt to deal with file exchanging,” said Josh Harris ’08, who said he plans on attending tonight’s forum.

Archived article by Rob Fishman
Sun Contributor