The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) recently released software which it urged some of America’s largest universities to employ in order to monitor their networks for unauthorized file sharing. Not only do the universities not owe the MPAA anything, but the toolkit was found by security specialists to raise some major privacy concerns. Steve Worona, director of policy and networking programs at EDUCAUSE, says of the toolkit, “no university network administrator in their right mind would install this toolkit on their networks.”
More interestingly though, the software in question was based on Ubuntu variant Xubuntu and also made use of the Apache web server. There’s enough irony in the use of free and open source software to enforce draconian copyright laws already, but apparently the MPAA was in violation of the GNU GPL, the license the majority of the software is released under, by not making the source code available. Matthew Garrett from the Ubuntu technical board contacted the organization about their violation of copyright which resulted in a removal of the toolkit from the MPAA’s website. It will likely be up again soon once they sort things out, but this episode is both ironic and embarrassing for the MPAA. Calls for stricter copyright begin to sound hypocritical when the MPAA fails to respect other copyright holders’ rights.
Oh, and apparently this isn’t the first time the MPAA has done this sort of thing. And aside from violating copyright, they may also be in violation of Ubuntu’s trademark.
I really hope they’re embarrassed, but I’m not holding my breath.