Dear Mr. King:
We have had an opportunity to review your letter
of September 8, 2000, and to consider your request that the University
of Pennsylvania ban access by its community to the Napster Internet site.
First, let me assure you that as an academic
institution whose members regularly both produce and use copyrighted materials,
we fully understand and take seriously our obligation to carry out our
teaching, research and other activities in a manner that respects the intellectual
property rights of others. Our policies prohibit the use of the University's
electronic resources to intentionally infringe intellectual property rights,
and the University investigates and takes appropriate action when allegations
of specific infringement are brought to our attention. We will continue
to do so.
At the same time, we believe that free inquiry
and expression are absolutely essential to carrying out our educational
and research missions. We are therefore deeply committed to protecting
the ability of our community members to employ traditional and emerging
technologies for these purposes, consistent with the requirements of law.
In keeping with this commitment, we provide broad access to the Internet
and its resources, and have not undertaken to restrict access to any site
based on its content.
In deciding whether to employ or regulate the
use of technologies, whether they be copying machines, computers, the Internet,
or applications such as Napster, the University's responsibility is at
once to respect the legal rights of the creators of intellectual property,
and to do so in ways that do not restrict legitimate uses of the technologies
or hamper their development.
We find your request troubling because it asks
us to impose a blanket ban on access not simply to specific unlawful material,
but to a tool that facilitates access to a broad range of materials. You
ask, in effect, for the University to impose a particularly blunt and overly
broad form of censorship on all uses of the technology to address your
concerns about its possible misuse. I am sure you can appreciate an educational
institution's reluctance to collaborate in restricting access to all information
available through an information sharing tool as a method of eliminating
access to those that may not be properly available.
Consistent with the University's approach to
a range of issues that implicate competing values, we believe it is more
appropriate, and ultimately more effective, to educate members of our community
about the legal rules and University policy regarding use of copyrighted
materials, and to remind them that in using technologies we all have a
responsibility to respect the legal rights of others.
This year the University conducted computer ethics
training for incoming freshmen to promote responsible use of computing
resources through discussion of scenarios involving issues such as electronic
harassment and copyright infringement. We believe this and similar educational
efforts are the right approach to addressing the potential misuse of technologies.
Simply blocking access to Napster's site does little to instill the respect
for the rights of copyright holders that is ultimately the greatest protection
against infringement of those rights.
Finally, as you know, whether Napster in itself
violates the rights of copyright holders remains an unresolved issue that
is pending in the courts. Moreover, given the rapid pace of technology
change, an effective ban may never be feasible and would likely require
an ever escalating set of technical measures that would be fundamentally
inconsistent with respect for our users' right of free inquiry.
Under these circumstances, we have concluded
that it would be inappropriate for the University to impose a ban on access
by the University community to Napster.