“Lecturer censored in Spanish University (UPV) for defending P2P networks,” by Jorge Cortell, Bitacora (Blog) de Jorge Cortell, 20 May 2005, http://homepage.mac.com/jorgecortell/blogwavestudio/LH20041209105106/LHA20050520091532/index.html (from Slashdot).
Earlier, I fisked Victor Hansons’ attack on tenure. While Hanson is right that many academics are politically biased, tenure is too important to give up. Without a healthy system of tenure academics can easily be intimidated by narrow interests against pursuing vital research.
For example, in Spain a lecturer was dismissed for discussing peer-to-peer computer networks.
Jorge Cortell, Dismissed Lecturer
This what happened to me when trying to defend the legal use of P2P networks in Spain.
I have been teaching “Intellectual Property” (although I dislike the term) among other subjects at a Masters Degree in the Polytechnic University of Valencia UPV (Spain) for over 5 years. Two weeks ago I was scheduled (invited by the ETSIA Student Union and Linux Users’ Group for the celebration of “Culture Week”) to give a conference in one of the university’s buildings. During that conference I was to analyze the legal use and benefits of the P2P networks, even when dealing with copyrighted works (according to the Spanish Intellectual Property Law, Private Copy provision, and many research papers, books and court rulings). I was even going to use the network to “prove” that it was legal, since members of the Collecting Society “SGAE” had appeared on TV and newspapers saying that “P2P networks are ilegal” (sic) just like that, and to that extent I even contacted SGAE, National Police, and the Attorney General in advance to inform them about it.
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.
Later on that day (May 4th, I will never forget), I received a call from the Director of the Masters Degree Program where I was teaching telling me that the Dean had called and had asked him to “make sure I did not teach there again”, and on a second call saying “it’s your choice, but also your responsibility”.
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.
This issue is much bigger than software property rights.
Peer-to-peer networks are everywhere. They are behind the rise of the Christian Right in America. They are behind the
The same laws of networks apply, whether the nets in question are technological or social. For instance, recent Macromedia patents on disrupting peer-to-peer computer networks may harm efforts to fight terrorists in Iraq.
The less academics have tenure, the less safe research becomes. The less safe research becomes, the less questions are asked. The less questions are asked, the stupider and slower we are. The stupider and slower we are, the easier it is for our enemies.
Fight terrorism. Protect tenure.
Update: Citizen Journal disagrees