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Universities that don't, or won't, comply with copyright takedowns could risk losing government funding

The College Opportunity and Affordability Act (PDF) is a monster of a document, weighing in at 747 pages. The bill aims to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965, and buried deep inside is a nasty secret sponsored by the entertainment industry: universities would be required to help fight piracy or risk the loss of federal funding.

One section of COAA would force universities to publicly disclose their policies and procedures relating to copyright enforcement, and to develop plans for exploring “technology-based deterrents” and alternatives -- like Napster or the ad-supported Ruckus service. These requirements would be backed up with federal grant money, which would be authorized for the purchase and implementation of whatever programs a university may try to implement.

Another section of the bill is more familiar, as it bears a striking similarity to some additions attempted in the Higher Education Amendments of 2007. Under the new text, universities would be required to annually inform students of the “civil and criminal liabilities” of file sharing, provide a summary of the consequences for violating copyright laws, and provide a description of the university’s disciplinary policies if they’re caught.

Universities would also be required to tell students about the various countermeasures they may use to “prevent and detect” unauthorized file sharing.

University officials have been understandably alarmed, as the above provisions would put a potential $100 billion each year in federal aid at risk; failure to comply would cause the school to lose all of its financial aid for students, affecting even those students who don’t own a personal computer.

In a letter written on Wednesday and signed by the presidents of Stanford University and Penn State, and the chancellor of the University of Maryland system, university officials wrote:

Such an extraordinarily inappropriate and punitive outcome would result in all students on that campus losing their federal financial aid--including Pell grants and student loans that are essential to their ability to attend college, advance their education, and acquire the skills necessary to compete in the 21st-century economy … lower-income students, those most in need of federal financial aid, would be harmed most under the entertainment industry's proposal.

Officials also noted that while the higher education systems does indeed recognize the “seriousness of the problem of illegal peer-to-peer file sharing,” it noted that schools and universities represented only a “small fraction” of the overall P2P ecosystem.

University leadership is overreacting, said the MPAA, and noted that schools that actively implement P2P counter-measures see far fewer copyright complaints — sometimes as little as zero per month.

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By raphd on 11/12/2007 3:24:41 PM , Rating: 2
So in the states you pay taxes to the RIAA/MPAA and the government gets funding from them....?

RE: Taxes?
By mdogs444 on 11/12/07, Rating: 0
RE: Taxes?
By Spivonious on 11/12/2007 3:29:59 PM , Rating: 3
Well, not directly. We pay taxes that go towards the federal financial assistance for college. The schools have to follow certain regulations to get this money and now the regulations include certain conditions on slowing file sharing among students. The RIAA probably pays a lot in lobbying costs to get these conditions into law so what you say is true in a roundabout way.

Personally, I don't see why colleges are balking at this. Most schools already disclose their methods.

If colleges limited their Internet bandwidth to something more reasonable, it would probably kill any and all filesharing as no one would want to wait to download.

RE: Taxes?
By TomCorelis on 11/12/2007 3:52:24 PM , Rating: 3
Never underestimate the power of patience and dial-up...

RE: Taxes?
By Spivonious on 11/12/2007 4:03:24 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe a few years ago, but nowadays any person who considers themselves even mildly "tech-savvy" has a broadband connection. Going from 6000Kbps to 56Kbps sure would kill my Internet addiction. :)

RE: Taxes?
By TomCorelis on 11/12/2007 7:15:52 PM , Rating: 2
All I can say is, from experience, you learn to deal with it :-) Then again I grew up on computers that were at least 5 years behind the times.

"If you look at the last five years, if you look at what major innovations have occurred in computing technology, every single one of them came from AMD. Not a single innovation came from Intel." -- AMD CEO Hector Ruiz in 2007
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