Linuxing Liverpool Online — Part 7: Misunderstood Technology

This has nothing to do with Linux, but since this is my University of Liverpool category, I’m posting it here.

One of the lectures includes the sentence:

P2P (peer to peer) systems that enable web surfers to “pirate” music have been deemed illegal.

This sentence is wrong on three levels: First, “web surfers” aren’t doing P2P. P2P is done in a P2P client and has little to do with the web, the web isn’t necessary for P2P nets to work. Torrent tracker frontends etc. are just conveniences.

Secondly, and this is more important, the sentence is factually wrong. The Dutch Supreme Court, which is the jurisdiction of Laureate, the publisher of the lecture, has established that peer to peer networks and their operators are not liable for what they transmit. That decision was reached in 2003. The lecture is from 2007.

Thirdly, it’s not possible to prevent the abuse of a communications medium without also removing basic human rights of privacy. So the notion that there are P2P networks that do allow piracy and such that do not is not true.

So I’ve asked my instructor what jurisdiction that would be that “deems P2P networks illegal”. I have received no answer to that, the question was dodged twice. So I presented proof that the statement is false in both jurisdictions that concern UoL and Laureate, as well as in my own (Switzerland). When I mentioned that the university might be spreading non-factual information here, I was told that the statement does represent a fact. Then I was told to stop discussing the issue.

I think this is a very bad way to treat things. If students spot mistakes in lecture material, they should be heard and corrections should be made. Sticking your head in the sand and not even discussing the issue is very disrespectful and I think it’s totally against the spirit of science. We should be responsible and try to keep things factual, to make absolutely sure they are factual!

Who other than educational institutions can set things right in the minds of people? The way the lecture is written, it looks like UoL is part of a mad witch hunt against P2P technology. Just because something is abused doesn’t make it illegal, otherwise hammers, cars and water would all be illegal, each of them can kill people. I am severely disappointed with how UoL is treating this and will see if there are any legal means to correct the lecture. I’m quite sure a university should double-check its facts in their lectures or offer a way to correct them, I just wonder if they are legally bound to do so.

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