Senate majority leader withdraws Anti-P2P Amendment from Higher Education Reauthorization Act

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) withdrew a controversial new amendment from the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act Monday afternoon. Reid’s amendment would have required the Department of Education to compile an annual list of 25 colleges that were considered the worst culprits in file-sharing, based on the volume of letters received from RIAA and MPAA enforcers--letters that are not subject to judicial oversight, and are considered opinions of the RIAA and MPAA.

Universities appearing on the list would have been put “on probation” with unknown consequences and forced to demonstrate a plan of action detailing how they planned to stop piracy on their networks using technological means.

While Reid withdrew the amendment without comment, it would seem the withdrawal was the result of a fierce outcry from concerned individuals and groups such as the university coalition EDUCAUSE. EDUCAUSE last week issued an urgent call to action to its members: “CALL, not write, your state’s U.S. senators’ staff members … and tell them how much higher education opposes this amendment.”

The Reid Amendment was just one amongst a flurry of others added on to the Higher Education Act of 1965, a process that Inside Higher Ed described as “fast and furious” and those close to the situation described as “fluid.”

Moments after Reid announced the withdrawal, an e-mail circulated around the senate floor saying the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass), had agreed to incorporate a modified version of the Reid amendment. Under the new version, universities would be required to warn students of the penalties of illegal file sharing, outline campus policies on file sharing and describe what is being doing to stop it on campus networks.

The bill, more formally known as the Higher Education Amendments of 2007, passed the Senate yesterday and is now currently awaiting a House vote.

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