The loss of Elliott Wolf's server as a resource for watching and downloading movies, television shows and Duke basketball games left a void in many students' lives (especially the lonely ones). This is understandable. What could be better, on a college campus, than a one-stop location to view any missed TV program, or nearly any popular movie?
As a general rule, it seems like such a resource would be exactly the type of thing the last few years of advances in computer networking would encourage. If you have the ability to transfer an entire movie in under an hour-if that's what our technology allows-then it would require some really wishful thinking to expect students not to take advantage of it.
Similarly, if you have a campus full of neurotic pre-professional high-achievers, it will be difficult (even for an elite squad of ALE agents) to stop them all from drinking underage on the weekends to blow off steam. You can buy as many party houses off East Campus as you want-the most it accomplishes may be no more than encouraging drunk driving to locations further away from campus.
Likewise, shutting down Elliott's server is a short-term solution to a "problem" that probably isn't going away. Copyright holders, understandably, don't want people getting their s- for free. And Duke doesn't want to invite legal action from these companies.
But certainly it seems like we should be able to do what people have been doing. The engineers who populate K-Ville can turn in their problem sets using the wireless Internet connection there. And it feels like every Science Drive building I walk into has a flat-screen monitor advertising a lecture series that could as easily (and perhaps more effectively) be taped to the door.
So why can't I hypothetically download Half Baked at 4 am on a weeknight, if I (for some reason) should get that urge? If we can rent movies like Fever Pitch from Lilly Library and download copyrighted articles from e-reserves, can we also find a way to access films from home?
Perhaps there's a way to make both students and the media industry happy.
Make a centralized, reliable, legitimate source for movies and, especially, TV shows. Find some way to force us to watch advertising in order to get free programming. Or, charge us a reasonable amount of FLEX points per show (or season). In any case, enable college students to use the technology at their disposal in the ways they find most useful.
Part of me worries that users have tasted the forbidden fruit of free media, and it will now be hard to find a point of compromise. Indeed, record companies have complained that the iTunes Music Store charges too little-$.99 per song-for music that could be accessed for free with illegitimate means.
But only a few college students have been able to download movies with the ease of those lucky enough to have had access to Elliott's private server. Programs like BitTorrent are unreliable and slow and fail to take advantage of the blazing speeds of campus network connections.
It is not too late for the media industry and universities to find reasonable ways of employing technology to everyone's benefit. With the backing of institutions, and the support of on-campus technology experts, a unified system can provide an attractive alternative to illegal, unreliable file transfers.
The demand for easily accessible media will never go away. The technology to provide it is here. It is now time to find a method of supply that makes it unnecessary for consumers who possess both to resort to copyright infringement.
David Kleban is a Trinity junior and editorial page associate editor. His column runs every other Thursday.
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