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US Fed Gov. Says All Music Downloads Are Theft 451

BenEnglishAtHome writes "Nearly all US government employees and contractors are subject to mandatory annual information security briefings. This year the official briefing flatly states that all downloaded music is stolen. The occasionally breathless tone of the briefing and the various minor errors contained therein are funny but the real eye-opener is a 'secure the building' exercise where employees stumble across security problems and resolve them. According to the material, the correct response to an employee who is downloading music is to shout 'That's stealing!' No mention is made of more-free licenses, public domain works, or any other legitimate download. If this were a single agency or department that had made a mistake in their training material it might not be so shocking. But this is a government-wide training package that's being absorbed by hundreds of thousands of federal employees, both civilian and military. If you see a co-worker downloading music, they're stealing. Period. Who woulda thunk it? Somebody should mirror this. Who wants to bet that copies will become hard to find if clued-in technogeeks take notice and start making noise?" Warning: this site gives a whole new meaning to "Flash heavy."
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US Fed Gov. Says All Music Downloads Are Theft

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  • by tiedyejeremy ( 559815 ) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @04:35PM (#29207667) Homepage Journal
    I remember when I recorded my band in the living room and copied the cd to my computer. When iTunes told me I didn't have the required rights to make a cd copy I quit using iTunes.

    Is there an easy way to quit using the government?

  • by pegr ( 46683 ) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @04:36PM (#29207691) Homepage Journal

    Well, in at least the whole music/copyright discussion. Here's how. The position is obviously childishly absurd, even to the most brain-dead government worker. It negates itself quite effectively.

    Unfortunately, it also negates the rest of itself as well, and I'd like to believe that there is something useful about it.

    Oh, and don't be in a hurry to connect to a .mil site... (just sayin'...)

  • by Binestar ( 28861 ) * on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @04:41PM (#29207785) Homepage
    Most likely he was running as a standard user instead of as an administrator. If iTunes doesn't have admin rights or an admin process deeper down to allow burning you'll get the invalid rights.
  • by serutan ( 259622 ) <(moc.nozakeeg) (ta) (guodpoons)> on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @04:49PM (#29207899) Homepage

    "Occasionally breathless tone" is an understatement. Take a look at some of the other training material. The whole site has a Reefer Madness tone, as if it was produced by the same person who directed anti-commie films in the 1950s. I wonder if government training material in general has been given the "War On [fill in the blank]" treatment.

  • by amicusNYCL ( 1538833 ) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @04:52PM (#29207929)

    Just to point out, this isn't a "Flash-heavy" site, this is an online training course (CBT = computer-based training). The vast majority of CBT courses are done in Flash, for a variety of reasons (animation and audio are two). The company I work for creates CBT courses, including for the military. The LMS they run on is the Meridian LMS I believe, we have several of our own courses sitting on their LMS. None of them are publicly-available though, I'm not sure why this course is.

    It's nice that they bother to create a non-Flash version, that's not something that we normally offer. The vast majority of our clients are fine with having their courseware delivered as a Flash package.

  • by langelgjm ( 860756 ) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @04:52PM (#29207931) Journal

    If the summary is accurate, whoever wrote this needs an encounter with a clue-by-four. Let's not even bother with stuff like Creative Commons licenses or public domain recordings - just take the briefing at face value for a minute. All music is copyrighted; downloading copyrighted material is stealing; therefore, downloading music is stealing.

    Do they also not realize that in every Berne signatory country, all "creative" written text (i.e. anything other than raw facts), drawings, and photographs are also automatically copyrighted? So, using that logic, downloading any text or images is stealing. Congratulations, you've just made the entire Internet illegal!

  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @04:56PM (#29207987) Journal
    I read an opinion once that the reason the US government is so incompetent and inefficient is because we as Americans expect it to be. Since then I've decided it's kind of true, can you imagine working at a job where people are always blaming you for being inefficient, bad workers and lazy? Who would want to work there? Some people might, but then you get things like this. I am ok with not pirating music, but.........

    imagine if your workplace had a policy where if you saw someone downloading music, you had to approach them, then shout, "That is stealing!" Wow. Talk about demoralizing policy. I would feel like an utter tool. I mean, do I have to shout? Can't I at least say it in a soft voice?

    When managers start implementing policies like that, it's time to quit. What competent person would want to work for the government if they can work someplace nice? Some, I'm sure, but they are pushing a lot of good people out.
  • by gnud ( 934243 ) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @05:05PM (#29208133)
    If _any_ government employee makes a mistake, all opposition politicians and media outlets might bitch about it for months (depending on who got fucked). So it's natural that a bureucracy evolves and more workers are needed because 60% of time is spent on asscovering.
  • by symbolset ( 646467 ) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @05:09PM (#29208191) Journal

    Copyright as envisioned by the authors of the US Constitution was written to law as the Copyright Act of 1790 [].

    Under that act protection was 14 years with a 14 year extension available if the copyright holder was still alive and it was renewed.

    So... that's what they meant by "for limited times". They wrote it down for us. Under that law all works prior to 1980 would be in the public domain as would many prior to 1994. Every time copyright has been extended those works that would be public domain have been stolen from each of us. THAT'S stealing.

  • Re:Lol (Score:3, Interesting)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <dnaltropnidad>> on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @05:24PM (#29208419) Homepage Journal

    The interstate system abd the USPS are the best in the world, jackass.

    In nearly every case where private industry has tried to mange infrastructure programs, they have failed. Miserably.

    Buy a clue.

  • by aztektum ( 170569 ) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @05:28PM (#29208489)

    IANAL but legally is it not theft but copyright infringement? Therefor the government is misrepresenting its own laws?

  • by Eil ( 82413 ) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @05:37PM (#29208631) Homepage Journal

    According to the material, the correct response to an employee who is downloading music is to shout 'That's stealing!' No mention is made of more-free licenses, public domain works, or any other legitimate download.

    When I was in the USAF, everyone in our squadron had to complete annual COMPUSEC training in order to retain their network account. Along with all of the other popular security myths, the training included a section where it instructed users to never, EVER install software from a file or disc that hadn't been approved by the network administrator. Now, this would make sense from a security point of view. We don't need bored airmen installing the Trojan Edition of Bejewelled on government computers. What killed me was that the ENTIRE justification for this rule was not to avoid a possible security issue, but rather that doing so might infringe on the software's copyright if a license to use it had not been properly purchased.

    In other words, the U.S. military was more concerned about accidental piracy than actual computer security.

    It should go without saying that there was never any mention of open source software, but I can sorta forgive them for that since this was a bit before open source became a common idea in I.T.

  • by netdemonboberb ( 314045 ) <> on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @05:38PM (#29208635) Homepage

    According to this, Pandora and radio streams are.. STEALING!

    It's still downloading music.

    This is all very interesting considering it was just ruled that Yahoo online internet radio should be royalty-free and only have to pay normal radio licensing fees: []

  • by kindbud ( 90044 ) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @05:42PM (#29208703) Homepage

    What competent person would want to work for the government if they can work someplace nice?

    They get an excellent health care plan and a pension for retirement. The private sector cannot^will not compete with this.

  • Re:Lol (Score:3, Interesting)

    by amicusNYCL ( 1538833 ) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @05:54PM (#29208869)

    most industry awards are useless.

    Yeah, mostly. The training industry has the Brandon Hall Awards (Brandon Hall says that they're the "Oscars of the training industry", of course), plus IEEE awards, Society For Technical Communication awards, etc. Yeah, they don't mean a lot, but it also makes you feel pretty good when you're being presented with the best award you can possibly get for your industry (even though you wouldn't be able to trade it for a free drink).

    The last award we got for something I worked on, we submitted our piece to Brandon Hall, I think it was in the Learning Technology category, which doesn't have too much competition. They might get 100 submissions total for that one, versus several thousand for the "Custom Learning Content" category. We were told we won an award and went to the ceremony with our Air Force buds (the work was for them), and we sat there confused as they announced all of the winners for the Learning Tech. category and left us out. They keep going and get to the very end of the Custom category, and announce us the gold winner. They were so impressed with our stuff (military training that ran on a PDA, so the soldiers could train in the aircraft en route) that they bumped us up to the higher category and still gave us the gold.

    So yeah, I still can't trade that award for a free drink, but it does feel pretty good to get a little peer recognition every now and then. Especially when the people who got the bronzes and silvers were companies like IBM, Cisco, Microsoft, and Adobe (yeah, we beat Adobe at creating Flash-based training content, which didn't come as that much of a shock really). In other words, companies whose annual revenue are greater than our total revenue over the last 13 years, that feels pretty good to beat them. And it always feels good to beat Microsoft at anything, I don't care what the competition is.

  • Re:Lol (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @06:06PM (#29209025)
  • by smellsofbikes ( 890263 ) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @06:12PM (#29209113) Journal

    I read an opinion once that the reason the US government is so incompetent and inefficient is because we as Americans expect it to be. Since then I've decided it's kind of true, can you imagine working at a job where people are always blaming you for being inefficient, bad workers and lazy? Who would want to work there?

    My sis-in-law works in the Federal court system as a paralegal, basically. Their enormous office building has exactly the minimum legal number of required bathrooms, and one drinking fountain, on the ground floor. When she asked why, she was told that if they put in comfy bathrooms and drinking fountains within a short walking distance of desks, there would be a huge public outcry about how gummint workers had cushy jobs and were too lazy to walk to get a drink -- which is exactly what happened when they DID try and modernize the building. So now she and her coworkers pay out of their pockets to get a Deep Rock water jug once a week. It has to sit on someone's desk, too, because they're not allowed to use floor space for non-governmental property. I'm glad the job pays her reasonably well because it sounds fairly hellish. I have a sink 8 meters from my desk, and our company pays for refrigerators stocked with free drinks, but that's okay because I'm in industry.

  • by ajs ( 35943 ) <> on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @06:14PM (#29209155) Homepage Journal

    Agreed. Such "free" music is just a drop in the bucket to the illegal downloads going on.

    That's not going to stop Jamendo [] (just for example) from being pretty peeved about this. Actually, I'd go out on a limb and say that this constitutes a fairly decent basis for Jamendo suing the U.S. Federal Government. If the company line is: you can download for-pay music on government computers, but you can't use Jamendo... then there is a very serious problem, here.

  • by martinX ( 672498 ) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @06:17PM (#29209205)
    Bullshit. I've been using iTunes since before Apple owned it and I have never seen a message remotely like this. WMP, sure. iTunes, nope.
  • Re:Lol (Score:3, Interesting)

    by HiThere ( 15173 ) <{ten.knilhtrae} {ta} {nsxihselrahc}> on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @06:19PM (#29209243)

    A lot of the time the police *do* choose to enforce the laws that are convenient, and ignore the others. I'm not saying that a private firm would do it any better, but think and observe a bit more carefully. A government doing it isn't a cure-all either.

    FWIW, I strongly support a public health system, but not any old public health system. It would be quite possible to do things worse than the current system. (And I say this after having been left in pain in the emergency room for well over 12 hours. Fortunately, I don't remember most of it, but I'm told I was not only moaning, but occasionally screaming and vomiting. Inflamed cellulitis. And this despite having health insurance. Only one doctor was available [it was a holiday weekend], and he couldn't be reached. I presume there were more urgent cases.)

    The care I received as a military dependent during the 1950's was generally superior to that which I have received from HMO's since then. (I understand that the military health care for dependents has since been adjusted downwards. At the instigation of private health insurance companies.)

  • by Falconhell ( 1289630 ) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @10:51PM (#29211695) Journal

    Long in the past when telecommunicatios was a govt monoploy here, many people complained about Telecom workers sitting arounf at times doing nothing. At that stage 90% of repairs in the counrty areas took less than 24 hours.

    So we privatised. No one sits around now, and the waiting time is now more than 5 days for repairs.

    Every time I hear someone bitching about govt workers this comes to mind.

  • by smellsofbikes ( 890263 ) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @11:01PM (#29211779) Journal
    Maaaan, I worked at one place -- what the hell, they treated me awfully, Flextronics is the name and they make lots and lots of computers -- that was so bad, people were talking about calling OSHA. Like, racks of PCB's in front of emergency exit doors (not because we were out of space but because people used those to go out and smoke) and a grand total of two bathrooms for Idunnohowmany people on a shift, something like 200 people. Then they decided they needed to cut costs so they stopped janitorial service and told us that we were a team and we needed to step up and do the cleaning ourselves, and we could divide up the duties however we wanted. As long as we were all working at our workstations our allotted 10 hours per shift. In other words, we were expected to clean the bathrooms on our own time, and if we didn't take the time to do it we were told it would be an issue when it came time for performance reviews. So, that's when people started talking about calling OSHA. So then a shift supervisor called us all into the cafeteria and said "if OSHA shows up they'll shut this place down and you'll all lose your jobs, so you better not say a word about conditions here." I left after a month and a half. It wasn't the worst working conditions I've ever been in, but it was the worst where there was an actual company involved. And, granted, it's not like I was working in a Chinese or Thai sweatshop. But there were a very large number of people working there who had always had jobs like that, and that sort of treatment, in the US, was what they'd come to expect.
  • by Bob Cat - NYMPHS ( 313647 ) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @11:35PM (#29212041) Homepage

    This story is bullshit. Federal court buildings are fucking palaces - Congress can't interfere with the judicial branch by limiting necessary funding.

    Who has the final say on what is 'necessary'? THE FEDERAL COURTS DO.

  • by paulsnx2 ( 453081 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @12:08AM (#29212213)

    I read through the comments, but can't claim I read every one. But of those I read, I didn't see anyone who pointed out that the guy in the training is showing you a WEB SITE...

    BUT all the answers are about the risks of P2P applications ?!?!?

    If you are going to a WEB SITE to download music, isn't the P2P application your browser!?!?!

  • Re:SlashFUD (Score:3, Interesting)

    by chrisG23 ( 812077 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:24AM (#29213873)
    You bring up several valid points and issues that are ripe for discussion on the issue of ownnership of non-tangible things. (Digital information is non-tangible, its existence while being dependent on some sort of physical media for storage is also wholly independent of that physical media, meaning it is not tied to it, it can be moved or copied to other physical media.)

    My point is that a discussion like this is way beyond the scope of a mandatory training that has to be done by more than one million people (I do not know the exact size of the US Department of Defense but it is large) on good (security wise) computer practices for users. Yes, it is a gross simplification to say "downloading music is stealing" because there are hundreds of instances where it clearly is not, and many other instances where it is ambiguous, but I think the point that was trying to be made (and made pretty badly) is stay away from sites that offer music for download as there is a good chance that for your average person's taste in music it is an illegal website, and is likely hosting malware and infect visitor's computers with viruses, malware and rootkits.

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." -- Bertrand Russell