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Teacher Fired for P2P Lecture 749

Posted by Zonk
from the talking-is-bad dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A teacher at the Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain, was forced to resign after a talk about P2P networks. You can read his side of the story on his blog." From the article: "The day before the conference, the Dean (pressured by the Spanish Recording Industry Association 'Promusicae' as I found out later, and he recognized himself in a quote to the national newspaper El Pais, and even the Motion Picture Association of America, as another newspaper quotes) tried to stop it by denying permission to use the scheduled venue. So I scheduled a second one, and that was denied again. And a third time. Finally I gave the conference on the university cafeteria, for 5 hours, in front of 150 people." Commentary on this story at BoingBoing as well.
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Teacher Fired for P2P Lecture

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  • by FlyByPC (841016) on Friday May 20, 2005 @12:30PM (#12590637) Homepage
    ...he should have ended it with "I'll probably be fired for this, so each of you go tell everybody you know." Or something to that effect.

    How are you going to suppress a n^x communication growth curve?
    • by Rei (128717) on Friday May 20, 2005 @12:43PM (#12590821) Homepage
      But as far as we can tell, he didn't. He needed a "trackerless" lecture system.
    • by hackstraw (262471) * on Friday May 20, 2005 @01:10PM (#12591190)
      ...he should have ended it with "I'll probably be fired for this, so each of you go tell everybody you know." Or something to that effect.

      Just as you should have preceded your comment with "I'll probably get modded down for this..." in order to get moderated higher.
    • I think this will spread the story much quicker than his lecture 150 attendants.
    • by Optali (809880) on Friday May 20, 2005 @01:35PM (#12591545) Homepage
      He indeed did.

      The fact is that as a result he's got a real lot of publicity. And now he is on tour like a rock-star, LOL.

      The situation is Spain is somewhat different as in the rest of the world:

      We have a monster called SGAE:

      It's kinda mixture of trade union, governmental department and private enterprise (?), which acts as a lobby group for EMI-Odeon Spain, as an obligatory trade-union (authors must pay fees to them so that they can see a cent from their IP), does music production as a private enterprise (it's partly responsible for the infamous "Latin Grammies"), fights against piracy, pirates copyrighted stuff from the spanish Wikipedia and at the same time runs an online music store, lobbys for non-related stuff such as an internet driving license and gets fees for public broadcast of public television and music bands which are not members of the SGAE.

      MPAA should be concerned, as those guys also get payd for the IP of "unknown" artists, this means anybody which is potentially non-spaniard.

      Now they are even getting money from a blank media 'tax' (30% of a CD or DVD's price), a 'tax' which is paid even by the Spanish administration itself (!)

      So, we Spaniards can be cosidered a dumb bunch, but in matters of robbery and piracy those guys are Number One.

  • Techinical Point (Score:3, Informative)

    by gowen (141411) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Friday May 20, 2005 @12:32PM (#12590649) Homepage Journal
    He wasn't fired. He (claims he) was pressurised into resigning. I ain't making any judgement or saying anything else until I've heard an account of events from someone less close to the controversy.
    • Um (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mcc (14761) <amcclure@purdue.edu> on Friday May 20, 2005 @12:35PM (#12590724) Homepage
      Welcome to Academia. That's how you fire people here.
    • by Danuvius (704536) on Friday May 20, 2005 @12:39PM (#12590770)
      He wasn't fired. He (claims he) was pressurised into resigning. I ain't making any judgement or saying anything else until I've heard an account of events from someone less close to the controversy.
      I'm quite certain that "having his contents confined under a pressure greater than that of the outside atmosphere" was not his reason for resigning.

      Being pressured, however, may have have had something to do with it.

      - The Word Police
    • Re:Techinical Point (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hey! (33014)
      I think is generally a good point about any hot-button controversy: reserve judgement until the facts come out.

      Of course, we should be very concerned about the allegations. If true they represent a serious breach of academic freedom. If the researcher is crying wolf, then, deservedly, his career is at an end.

      It's a bit curious though. If we take his story at face value, he resigned rather than face the various nasty things a hostile dean could do to his life. On the other hand, he clearly means to fi
    • by PCM2 (4486) on Friday May 20, 2005 @02:39PM (#12592319) Homepage
      He wasn't fired. He (claims he) was pressurised into resigning.
      Why didn't he just open his mouth?
  • I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shreevatsa (845645) <{shreevatsa.slashdot} {at} {gmail.com}> on Friday May 20, 2005 @12:32PM (#12590660)
    I just don't get it. Why should talking about P2P networks be considered illegal, and why was he forbidden in the first place? Of course, after being forbidden once, he should have fought with the authorities and argued his case until he got permission, not ignored them and gone on to speak.
    • Re:I don't get it (Score:5, Informative)

      by object88 (568048) on Friday May 20, 2005 @12:45PM (#12590858)
      Why should talking about P2P networks be considered illegal...

      It's not, and it was never suggested that it was. What was suggested was that his lecture was so disliked by individuals in power, because they don't want people to get the idea that P2P systems have legitimate uses, that he was coerced into resigning. The penalty for not resigning would have been a total crackdown on his entire department. He chose to resign to save the department that pain. And in return for that "favor", his 5 years of teaching is not even being recognized.

      and why was he forbidden in the first place?

      See above. The university administration, under coercion by the Spanish Recording Industry Association and the MPAA (I think-- I didn't quite understand that bit), didn't want the population at large to see that P2P is a valid and legal tool, as that would damage their fight against piracy.
  • This is not fair!! Maybe one of the audience will be motivated and develop a complete P2P solution which is legal and benefits both *AA and users. Maybe the organizers should attend a conference where Balmer is the speaker.

    Developer, developer, developer....
  • by .tardo. (790129)
    Hoffa better start makin room in his coffin for this guy...
  • by IO ERROR (128968) * <errorNO@SPAMioerror.us> on Friday May 20, 2005 @12:34PM (#12590690) Homepage Journal
    Just exactly why should I be buying music and movies and other such content from low-life snakes who pull stunts like this?

    This guy goes out to talk about the legal uses of P2P networks, and the recording industry gets him fired. How exactly do they expect to convince people to buy their products rather than downloading them, if they do this sort of thing?

    • Why should you buy it? Well, don't, but if you want to posess it, you have to cough up the cash.

      What they are doing is down-right vile, but disagreeing with corporate practices doesn't justify theft (obtaining something without proper payment).

      They don't have to convince anyone of anything, because they are the legal owners of the content. And since that content is by no means essential to your life in any way shape or form, they can control it as they like.

      Don't like how someone does business? Don't like their tactics? Boycott, get others to boycott... Protest... Write angry letters about it... whatever, but you can't really use it as a justification for theft.

      I think the University in this case is a lot more at fault, because the industry could try and pressure or threaten audits or whatever, but they should have stood up to it. If I was in the administration I would have recorded every bit of communication with the industry groups and would have said "You even TRY to nail us for exercising our academic freedoms, this will go out all over every major media outlet and we'll make sure to take you to court over it"
      • wow nice troll buddy

        "What they are doing is down-right vile, but disagreeing with corporate practices doesn't justify theft (obtaining something without proper payment)."

        OH NO i am depriving some company of PERCIEVED LOSSES. stop being a tool. i guess if i watch a dvd at my friends house i have to go out and buy another copy right? otherwise its stealing via public performance. right?

        boycotts and angry letters do a whole lotta nothing when the side you are fighting is evil. they will stop at nothign t
      • I take it you are not an American Zoomba. Boston Tea Party. Sometimes the only way to effectively protest is to deny someone else something, whether it is profit via copyright infringement, theft, or vandalism. You need to read the writing of Henry David Thoreau. Sometimes violating laws is the only moral action to do.

        Copyright infringement is not theft. They are legally two different things. One is copying an abstract idea while the other involves taking physical property. Copyright infringement is a civil action in most jurisdictions and most circumstances. Theft is a criminal action.

        There is some definate problems with how Copyright is being handled lately. This going to be an even bigger problem in the future. For one example of the problems we will be facing, check out Kim Stanley Robinson's "Elephant's Memory". To summarise the issue- there is a finite number of combinations that make up a particular art form. With the never ending copyright durations, there is a dwindling supply of new combinations to create new works of art. How do you create a new song when every five note chord you might come up with is already copyrighted?

        By ignoring copyright now, we force things to be changed. Look how Napster has given rise to various legal and semilegal digital music distribution services. Do you really think there would have been an iTunes or iPods if there was no Napster?
      • disagreeing with corporate practices doesn't justify theft

        It's not theft at all. You've been brainwashed into thinking that. Theft requires that you take someone's possession away and deny them access to that. It's not piracy either. That requires theft, rape and pillage on the high seas.

        What copying music does is increase its availability without compensating the record industry. They lose revenue. Never mind that you weren't going to buy it in the first place, you've devalued its worth to the record c
  • Resigned != Fired (Score:4, Insightful)

    by licamell (778753) * on Friday May 20, 2005 @12:34PM (#12590707)
    The Director called me and first asked me to remove any link to the university from my website, and also to "hide" the fact that I was teaching there. Then he told me about the pressures and threats he and the Program received (to be subjected to software licenses inspection, copyright violations inspections, or anything that may damage them). Obviously I had to resign to save his job (and everybody else's at the Masters Program). So I did.

    I'm not trying to say what happened was at all right, but it does not help the argument to start stories with the claim that he was fired. Fudging the little facts to get attention always in the long run will be held against you, and your side will not be taken as seriously.

    Also, one should remember that this teacher was not approved to give the lecture and decided to go without permission and give it in the cafeteria. This would be grounds for inspecting someones future at most companies/universities.

    Once again, I think what happened was a shame, but I also think that ignoring these facts is just unacceptable.
    • Wafflers. The university should know better than to fear a entertainment industry. This teacher should know better as well. Lecturing at the cafeteria? Who cares... its a quasi public place and they were obviously conspiring against him. The facts could b e more clear, I'd just like to see a little more strength that's probably the mean american in me though.
    • by gowen (141411) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Friday May 20, 2005 @12:56PM (#12591025) Homepage Journal
      Surely, if the Director is worried that an audit of his department will uncover unlicensed software, it's the Director and/or the IT guys who should be worrying about their jobs.
    • by kurisuto (165784) on Friday May 20, 2005 @01:08PM (#12591149) Homepage

      Also, one should remember that this teacher was not approved to give the lecture and decided to go without permission and give it in the cafeteria. This would be grounds for inspecting someones future at most companies/universities.

      At companies, yes. At universities, no.

      In academia, knowledge moves forward as we argue for competing viewpoints. Universities can't function properly unless it's possible to argue for unpopular viewpoints without fear of reprisal. This is one of the major differences between academia and the business world.

      I'm a faculty member myself. If I choose to stand up in a cafeteria and speak my mind on any subject I please, that is my right. I'm not required or expected to obtain anybody's approval or permission. The rules are that I can't be fired for this. If you disagree with my viewpoint, then the correct response is to use your own freedom to state your dissent.

      Most folks in academia, both faculty and administration, understand this, agree with it strongly as a value, and go to considerable lengths to safeguard this ability. Those safeguards grossly broke down in this case.

  • Both sides? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Agelmar (205181) *
    You really only get one side from this story. I'm no fan at censorships at University, but the guy was really asking for it. After being told repeatedly by his administration that this was a no-go (and we don't have the full story on why this was a no-go) he did it anyways. It's insubordination, more than anything else. If he had worked in less confrontational manner, who knows what he might have been able to acheive.
  • No, he -resigned- to "save jobs?". NONE was fired.

    I dont get that... resigned to protect the boss that bent to the movie guys wishes, and the 'other masters program guys'. What danger were they in???

    hmm... of course we're in america, i wonder if he still has a alwsuit over there, since we have 50 for that sort of case.
  • by nurhussein (864532) on Friday May 20, 2005 @12:40PM (#12590788) Homepage
    nobody expects the Spanish (Recording Industry Association) inquisition!
  • by PhillC (84728) on Friday May 20, 2005 @12:40PM (#12590790) Homepage Journal
    What I find unbelievable is this whole "P2P is illegal" thing.

    Certain uses of P2P technology, which involves sharing of copywrited material is indeed illegal. However, there is nothing illegal about P2P technology in and of itself.

    There are large corporations out there that are working to build legitimate P2P applications [slashdot.org] for the benefit of the general public.

    Where's the disconnect?

    • I think it would be great if they made peer-to-peer illegal. Since IP is a peer-to-peer protocol, you'd be able to shut down the operations of Sprint, Qwest, AOL, Verisign, and millions more. One day of 'peer-to-peer is illegal' would be enough for proof by contradiction.
  • by davidwr (791652) on Friday May 20, 2005 @12:41PM (#12590802) Homepage Journal
    If he'd been a tenured professor, he wouldn't have been under as much personal pressure to resign but that wouldn't have stopped his department from being "audited" to death by the industry, and he might still have chosen to resign to "take one for the team."

    I hope there's an investigation into the outside pressure:
    Either there is reason for department to be audited or it shouldn't be, but the topics of discussion in the lectures should NOT be a determining factor, and his resignation should NOT change whether or not any audits proceed. The fact that his resignation changed that outcome means it's political, and as such there needs to be an investigation, so this kind of thing doesn't happen again.
  • Moneyed interests (Score:3, Informative)

    by delirium of disorder (701392) on Friday May 20, 2005 @12:42PM (#12590812) Homepage Journal
    What happens to a society when the moneyed interests have a controling influence in everything? The Government. The Media. The Schools. NPR had an exellent segment yesterday on Peru's National Intelligence leader durring the Fujimori regime. The jist of it was that he was able to run a de-facto authoritarian country, not through physical coersion, but through bribing everyone. Even if the RIAA and MPAA has no army, their wealthy legal department and overall financial influence could be enough to silence just about anyone important the world over.
  • Pressured? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 91degrees (207121) on Friday May 20, 2005 @12:42PM (#12590819) Journal
    Okay, the teacher was pressured by the director, and the director was pressured by the Dean.

    Who was applying pressure to the Dean, and how? And why does giving a talk to 150 people justify this level of pressure?

    It sounds more like a tinfoil hat conspiracy where the Dean had his own reasons for doing what he did, but I'm not convinced the media cartels had anything to do with it.
    • Re:Pressured? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jisakiel (589289)
      The hand of theirs is clearly behind. As an example, the teacher had a conference room booked like a week before, just to be said that it was suddenly "not available", although it was empty. Also, some of their listeners did book another room by theirselves, without mentioning at all that conference, and had their reservation cancelled right before the conference without any reasons given at all.

      I think you don't really know how much power the SGAE has here (RIAA equivalent). They, a private organization,
  • No FS Here (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Friday May 20, 2005 @12:43PM (#12590834)
    Obviously no Free Speech rights in Spain -- even in the university system.
  • by smcd (634) on Friday May 20, 2005 @12:46PM (#12590877)
    IANAL, but in most countries if you are forced into a position where you feel incorrectly pressured to resign, and you do resign, that is still grounds for an unfair dismissal case. He was effectively fired by the comments that were presented to him.

    However, I do agree with some people that it would have been a clearer argument if he waited longer for the situation to develop more and made proper recordings of phone calls "discussing his problematic situation".
  • by dominion (3153) on Friday May 20, 2005 @12:47PM (#12590887) Homepage
    Doesn't he have a union or something? I mean, this is Spain, I didn't think things like this could happen there without some kind of repurcussions for the entity doing the firing.
  • by guitaristx (791223) on Friday May 20, 2005 @12:47PM (#12590894) Journal
    I can't believe how quickly these creatures have crawled from beneath the bridges and translated their near-unintelligble grunts to paper.
    Mods, please mark "Troll" to anyone who posts anything like:
    "He's a wuss, he backed down and quit."
    or
    "He resigned, he didn't get fired. TFA != Story Title"

    Half-truth: He resigned.
    Complete truth: He was forced to resign, and denounced by the university. The university said, "he only taught a few classes," when he'd been teaching full-time for 5 years!

    This is BS, and censorship at its worst. I'm working on becoming a Computer Science professor, and this article makes me glad I don't live in Spain. Does anyone remember this [slashdot.org] from a few weeks ago? The RIAA wants just as much control over U.S. universities as the Spanish equivalent already has over theirs.
  • by ahfoo (223186) on Friday May 20, 2005 @12:53PM (#12590977) Journal
    I only teach part-time, but I definitely make use of class time to push P2P on the students and tell them that it is their responsibility to get out there and share as much as they can. I find the students are eager to discuss the issue.
    I see it as a personal obligation to get people to use P2P, especially the ones that are scared of it. Now, I don't publicly encourage them to violate copyright in the sense that I direct them to sites like eTree and Knoppix, but I do use class time to teach them how to set up BitTorrent to work with TOR and discuss the merits of clients like Mute and GNUnet.
    To me, this is just following the trend. The RIAA, MPAA and BSA are all into encouraging shools to spend more time on the topic of intellectual property so teachers should feel obliged to take them up on it and use class time to discuss these topics at length.
    I think schools should spend a whole day each week doing nothing but discussing P2P and exchanging examples of the right way to share. The more time devoted to the topic, the better.
    • For CS students (Score:5, Interesting)

      by grahamsz (150076) on Friday May 20, 2005 @01:43PM (#12591638) Homepage Journal
      Teach them how to write P2P systems.

      I know the class below me at Edinburgh Uni had a project which involved writing thier own P2P app.

      P2P Apps are a great learning experience in socket programming, distributed systems, threading and many other skills that do transfer into other areas.

      However if this stuff doesn't relate to your major then i fail to see why it should be taught. Regardless of how paradigm-shifting some people think p2p is - it's just a new way to use an old technology. And unless you study CS, Law, or some relevant social science then it's not what you (or your government) are paying for you to go to uni for.
  • Whether he resigned or was fired, or was pressured to resign is another matter. He was censored in his own university, for God's sake!
  • Spain != U.S. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Snap E Tom (128447) on Friday May 20, 2005 @01:03PM (#12591097)
    *sigh*

    There's a lot of comments here about how he should have gotten tenure, spoke to a union, in the U.S pressured resignation == firing, in the U.S. pressured resignation != firing, etc. How about someone from Spain actually chiming in? Is there a tenure system in Spanish universities? Teacher's union?
  • by pubjames (468013) on Friday May 20, 2005 @01:03PM (#12591098)
    I live in Spain. It's generally pretty cool, but one thing I really don't like about it is that there isn't the freedom of speech here that there is in the rest of Europe.

    Politicians here sometimes sue members of the public for slander or libel. The last president did it (aznar). I like the UK, where you can happily calll tony blair a liar and not worry he's going to try to sue you for it!
    • I like the UK, where you can happily calll tony blair a liar and not worry he's going to try to sue you for it!

      Um, actually, there are very few countries in the EU with any guaranteed freedom of expression. Certainly not the UK or Ireland anyway.
      The difference is usually that public figures can't be bothered taking libel suits against normal plebs, simply because a) it's so expensive, and b) the plebs don't have a whole lot of influence.

      It's quite amusing to hear local scumbags being arrested asking

  • Academic freedom ? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by natoochtoniket (763630) on Friday May 20, 2005 @01:03PM (#12591101)
    Firing, or even reprimanding, a university professor (at any rank) because of the contents of an academic lecture is just outrageous. In order for a university to function, the faculty must have significant freedom to research, publish, and teach on just about any topic within their respective subject areas.

    Physics professors routinely give lectures that are, essentially, instructions for making a nuclear weapon. Chemistry professors often teach how to create the energetic reactions that most people call explosions. Engineering professors teach the methods that can cause buildings to fall down. No one suggests that these topics must not be taught. Indeed, there is significant intellectual content in each of these topics. Nuclear power, how to avoid explosions, and how to avoid falling buildings, all require knowledge that might be misused.

    The idea of a p2p network is useful for many purposes other than distribution of copyrighted material. Distribution of public-domain materials, software upgrades and patches, government documents, and contributed materials are all legitimate. The protocols and technology that are used in current p2p implementations is a legitimate topic of study, so that researchers can design improved versions for future use. Methods to discover and disable the illegal copying of copyright material, without disabling the legal publishing of contributed public-domain material, is another legitimate area for research.

    Of course, it is possible that some of the people attending these lectures had the intention of using the material to violate the law. But, it is also possible that some of the students who take physics, chemistry, or engineering courses have the intention of using that material to violate other laws. If we suppress every topic that might be used to do harm, there will not be much left in our universities.

  • by augustz (18082) on Friday May 20, 2005 @01:04PM (#12591112) Homepage
    Interesting how one of the pressure tactics were the license audits. Propriatary vendors obviously have the right to do this, but it appears to have been a source of great leverage in silencing critics.

    Also interesting, the teacher was only going to share his opinion on why using P2P may be legal. In America at least we are generally pretty protective of the right to debate ideas. The MPAA and its spanish counterparts though appear to be opposed to this concept.

    If you're going to be an academic institution it would seem prudent to move away from software and support of groups that are unwilling to even allow different opinions to be expressed on a college compus about a topic. We used to call that type of exchange education.
  • I gave an impromptu lecture last week--to a group of high school students--about the recording industry. It went something like this:

    "Mr. Highgate, is sharing music files on the Internet wrong?"

    "Well, students, it's illegal. And, according to the recording industry of America, it takes money away from recording artists."

    "Yes, but is it wrong?"

    "Let me tell you about the business practices of the recording industry . . ." Then I went into a good 40 minute description of the business practices of that industry. The exploitation, the loophole payola, the underhanded deals. I went to show them on the board how if a major record label signed their band, how they could sell a million records and still not make any money themselves. To be fair, I also pointed out that most bands don't sell many recordings, and how the industry loses money on them.

    "Is it wrong?" I concluded. "Well, student's, that's a moral decision you'll have to make on your own. This is a civics class. All I'm going to tell you is that it's not legal, and you'd be insanely stupid to do it using the school's computers."

    Though if anyone in the administration told me not to discuss this topic, I would probably comply. Just because I don't like the RIAA doesn't mean I'd be willing to martyr myself for it.
    • "Mr. Highgate, is sharing music files on the Internet wrong?"

      Certainly not, providing you have the permission of the copyright owner to do so.

      Only after their next question (presumed to be, "what if you don't have that permission?"), do you then get into the 40 minute talk on the state of the mainstream music industry. You could even point out to the musically inclined that it doesn't have to be that way - that they have the right and power to control their creations unless they sign them away to a delegatee of the Big 5.

      Structuring the topic that way changes the conversation quite a bit.

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