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Hollywood's prepares for new assault on campus file swappers

Hollywood’s content owners want to raise the ante in their campaign against file swappers by using a new technology that could make it easier to remove suspected pirates from campus networks, CNET reported.

Movie studios, record labels and technology companies have been testing the system for months, according to sources familiar with the project. Known as the Automated Copyright Notice System (ACNS), the technology promises to make copyright enforcement easier on peer-to-peer networks, saving schools and Internet service providers (ISPs) time and money. ACNS allows them to automatically restrict or cut off Internet access for alleged infringers on notice from a record label or movie studio.

For example, universities using ACNS could instantly send notices of copyright infringement to students by e-mail and restrict their network access until they have removed the file.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is working on gathering support among universities, which are key to helping curb piracy, said Matthew Grossman, director of digital strategy at the group. “If it enables them to properly implement their copyright policies, we’re all for it,” Grossman told CNET News.

ACNS was jointly designed by Vivendi Universal Entertainment and Universal Music Group in response to an open call for technical solutions to peer-to-peer piracy. The two groups are still talking to universities, ISPs and technology companies about offering it as a pilot program. They have also applied for a patent on the piracy notice and prevention tool.

ACNS is the latest effort from record labels and Hollywood studios to crack down on piracy over peer-to-peer networks. The industries’ tactics have grown increasingly aggressive, drawing charges from some critics that copyright holders have trampled the rights of accused infringers.

Fred von Lohmann, an attorney with the Internet consumer rights group known as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said he doubted that ACNS will stop campus piracy. He predicted that students ultimately create workarounds, for example, using wireless devices to avoid detection. He said that the more sensible solution is for the copyright holders to collectively license their content to college campuses.

That approach has proven controversial as well, however. Penn State signed a deal last fall with Napster to offer a legitimate online service for its students, but many students balked because it translates into added fees to their tuition.

"Whether it's an opening gambit for the recording industry to try to tell universities how to design their computer systems, we'll have to wait and see," von Lohmann said. "The trouble I have with this, there will be countermeasures, and who is going to absorb costs to constantly modify this system to make it work? Do universities really want to be drawn into the arms race?"

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