Piracy Proofing Your Schools

OnLineCrimeIn last month’s article Piracy in Education, we learned how media is pirated in schools and the effects it is having on our U.S. and global economy. 

This month, we will look at ways to piracy proof your school or organization in order to reduce liability, and eliminate lawsuits and out-of-court settlements, while improving media literacy and digital citizenship.

First, an awareness of the common types of pirated media for which schools have been cited is as follows:

• Software
• Music
• Movies
• Books

In this issue, we will focus specifically on software, music and some general guidelines.

Secondly, a better understanding of the definition of piracy is critical.

What is PiracyPiracy is the unauthorized use or reproduction of copyrighted, trademarked, or patented material

This includes copying, selling, or using media that has not been properly licensed or purchased.

Pirating media is not just stealing and sharing, but any usage that is not included in the license is also considered piracy.  Regarding the usage of media for educational and academic purposes, Fair Use and the Teach Act are both alternatives, but both have conditions and limitations. Therefore it is important to incorporate properly licensed media and a permissions process with the correct use of Fair Use and the Teach Act.

Here are some general guidelines to piracy proof your school or organization:

• Have written policies to which your users must agree
A written policy is your best protection.  Many K-12 organizations and universities have written policies on copyright and acceptable use to which all users must agree.  This also serves as a disclaimer for your organization if there is failure on the part of your users to comply.  It is also helpful to have such policies published in on your school or district web site.

• Check licenses in accordance with your usage 
On many occasions I have seen districts or schools cited for usage violations simply because there was an assumption made that the license of the media being used was acceptable. When in fact, the license was not viewed or thoroughly viewed and understood. In each of these cases, there was no lawsuit, no out-of-court settlement.  The company whose license was violated simply contacted the district with the amount that had to be paid, and in each of those cases, they paid it in order to avoid further legal action from the company.

• Register your products
Registration is simple and easy these days and is typically done in a matter of minutes online.SVN_Speaker

• Investigate free offers
You have heard the saying, “too good to be true” and “nothing is really free”.  These are good sayings to live by.  Many times media and software that is being offered for free is pirated.  Also, legal items that are marked as free may have hidden costs or licensing fees, and, these companies can cite you for use that is not in accordance with their license.

• Purchase Licensed Media from Known and Trusted Sources

Regarding software piracy

The laws that govern software ownership and licensing are extremely complex and have been surrounded by heated debates from many parties over the last decade.  Because of this, one can assume they are either more at liberty or more constrained to use certain types of software for educational purposes.  For the sake of protecting your school, it’s best to focus on the various types of software piracy.

Adobe™ has done a great job of defining these types of piracy as:

1) End-user – When users make copies or share an installation discs without purchasing new licenses.

2) Internet – When software is downloaded illegally from the Internet.

3) Hard disk loading – Loading pirated software onto computers or hard-drives.

4) Software Counterfeiting – The deliberate duplication and selling of copyrighted material that is not the authentic product.

You can learn more about each of these types of software piracy at http://www.adobe.com/aboutadobe/antipiracy/types.html and http://www.adobe.com/aboutadobe/antipiracy/.

Also, visit the following links provided by Apple™ and Microsoft™:

Protection against music violations

Music piracy has cost U.S. taxpayers over $12 billion dollars annually.  Many of these violators I have met face-to-face, and unfortunately, it has been the parents of students who have had to pay the price of out-of-court settlements to the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America).

In one particular case when I was speaking at the Holiday Inn in Binghampton, New York in 2008, I made reference to a number of lawsuits that had been filed against students at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).  During the break, a lady came and introduced herself to me as one of those parents, and shared that they settled out-of-court for on a $2.2 million dollar lawsuit.  The out-of-court settlement had the charges dropped and ensured there would be no criminal record against her son.

For your school, the most important thing is not to have illegal peer-to-peer file sharing networks on your system.  Not only from a liability standpoint, but also for technical reasons since these networks typically contain freeware or shareware that can be harmful to your school’s network.

The second most important thing is that you do not allow students to bring their pirated music from home into the school system.  There have been many cases where, though the school or district did not have illegal file sharing mechanisms on their system, they unknowingly allowed the students to incorporate pirated music into school projects and presentations which did result in lawsuits and out-of-court settlements both against the districts, schools, students and parents.

Regardless of whether or not one feels this is right or wrong, it is an issue.

For the purpose of protecting your school, here is a current list of illegal music sites.   Please note that this may not be a complete list since new sites arise frequently. Also, some of these companies might be legal, but the sharing of copyrighted music files would constitute an illegal act.

• Alive Torrents
• Ares
• Bit Unity
• Bitenova
• Bitsoup
• BitTorrent
• BitToxic
• BTjunkie
• Btscene
• Cinema Torrents
• Demonoid
• Entertane
• ExtraTorrent
• Fenopy
• Fluxflux
• Frostwire
• Gnutella
• GPirate
• IPtorrents
• Isohunt
• Kick Ass Torrents
• Limewire (is now shutdown)
• Linux Tracker
• Meganova/SeedPeer
• Nowtorrents
• Plentyoftorrents
• RapidShare
• Scrapetorrent
• Shareaza
• The Blues Brothers
• The Pirate Bay
• Thunderbytes
• Torrent Café
• Torrent Funk
• Torrent Pond
• Torrent Root
• Torrent Zap
• Torrentbit
• Torrenthound
• Torrents
• Torrentscan
• Torrentshack (TorrentHunt)
• Torrentz
• Torrnent Tree
• Vertor
• Vuze
• Youtorrent
• YouTorrent

Many administrators have asked me if legally purchased music from iTunes and other reputable providers can be used in education.  The answer is, it depends on whether or not there is academic value in that piece of music.   For example, if you are teaching a music appreciation class on classical music, it would be acceptable to use a popular recording of Mozart’s music within the four walls or your classroom.

When it comes to synchronizing the music in a multimedia environment and especially when broadcasting on a public network, there are limitations and conditions.  This is a different and extensive topic, so feel free to view these related articles:

Copyright Issues When Using Music in Videos—The Digital Age!
Code of Best Practices

Some educators have differed on the details in the above articles.  However, it is important to note that the information given is not based on my opinion, but is instead pointing out actions for which other schools have been cited in accordance with laws and ethics.

It is important to be careful where you get your information.  In a recent meeting with instructional technology specialists, they informed me that their Apple representative told them that they were allowed to use the music from iTunes in all their school projects.  This is not true and it is not my opinion.  The fact is, the record labels, publishers and copyright holders can only grant this permission.  iTunes is only a distributor of online music.  I am sure that if they told their representative to put that statement in writing, he or she would and could not do so.

Another question I have been asked is whether or not it is okay to use music from online music streamers such as Pandora, Grooveshark, Deezer or Spotify.  Music from these companies and others like them is for streaming purposes only and may not be extracted or downloaded.

Assignments and Lesson Plans related to this article:


Other Helpful Links:

Whitehouse wants new copyright law crackdown
License to Read
ESA (Entertainment Software Association)
Utah Office of the Attorney General Press Release

In next month’s article we will continue by addressing the topic of books and movies.


BrittBarry S. Britt is the Executive Producer and Education Coordinator of Soundzabound Royalty Free Music in Atlanta, GA, and a regular contributor to School Video News.