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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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Universities overreacting? I think not.
By akugami on 11/12/2007 3:29:31 PM , Rating: 5
I am alarmed at this bill as much as others. I don't plan on doing anything from the school networks (I plan to go back to college either in the spring or fall of '08) that I wouldn't do from home. However, school is a time for experimentation and sometimes laws are unjust.

I also do not believe it is a school's job to monitor and play traffic cop to what students are doing. Certainly a bit of monitoring is necessary but if the MPAA and RIAA had their way, schools would be in deep deep crap. I don't believe for a minute that Big Media won't wield this law like a sledgehammer. We've already seen how the DMCA has been abused.

I think Big Media is not happy that some schools have the gall to tell Big Media they are not throwing their students under a bus with nothing more than an IP address. This is their way of rectifying the situation.




RE: Universities overreacting? I think not.
By mdogs444 on 11/12/07, Rating: -1
RE: Universities overreacting? I think not.
By clovell on 11/12/2007 3:44:55 PM , Rating: 2
I agree in concept, mdogs, but I don't think it's the jobs of the Universities to police the internet - we have enforcement agencies that already hadnle this.


RE: Universities overreacting? I think not.
By mdogs444 on 11/12/2007 3:52:12 PM , Rating: 4
enforcement agencies do not handle private networks.


RE: Universities overreacting? I think not.
By clovell on 11/12/2007 4:01:41 PM , Rating: 1
But P2P doesn't operate on a University's intranet - it passes through the world wide web.


RE: Universities overreacting? I think not.
By mdogs444 on 11/12/2007 4:11:06 PM , Rating: 2
True, there are also programs out there for internal sharing - that are not open web based.


By clovell on 11/12/2007 4:14:45 PM , Rating: 1
Ah, okay - I didn't know there were such things that were widespread. In those cases, then, the University should be responsible for making sure that doesn't happen.


By gamefreak32 on 11/12/2007 5:02:46 PM , Rating: 2
We have a P2P going on in our intranet, just for the fact that we can't p2p through the world wide web.


RE: Universities overreacting? I think not.
By mindless1 on 11/12/2007 6:34:26 PM , Rating: 5
There is more substantial evidence that college kids speed on campus than share files. Based on your biased argument schools could not exist, could not receive the funds at all because someone, somewhere, breaks some law.

Just as enforcement agencies don't handle private networks, colleges aren't enforcement agencies. It is wrong to punish all students for the actions of a few which is exactly what the proposal aims to do, because we know it would cause large tuition increases. Essentially the end result is even worse than the prior proposal for a welfare system where the college just charges each student a media fee assuming they must all be infringing.

The answer is to just say no. Special interest groups should not be in control of our legislature and especially not educational policies.


RE: Universities overreacting? I think not.
By mdogs444 on 11/12/2007 7:38:29 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
There is more substantial evidence that college kids speed on campus than share files. Based on your biased argument schools could not exist, could not receive the funds at all because someone, somewhere, breaks some law.


Actually, its quite common for colleges to have their own "campus police" just for that type of infraction. Remember, that campuses do lie on city grounds, and their streets are stilled monitored by both campus & local police. So they are making a point to deter those actions. Your argument on that part makes no sense.

quote:
Just as enforcement agencies don't handle private networks, colleges aren't enforcement agencies. It is wrong to punish all students for the actions of a few which is exactly what the proposal aims to do, because we know it would cause large tuition increases. Essentially the end result is even worse than the prior proposal for a welfare system where the college just charges each student a media fee assuming they must all be infringing.


Im not saying I agree with all parts of the proposal. But I dont think that putting on filters and monitoring students abusing the intranet for file sharing is something that would punish the rest of the students.

quote:
The answer is to just say no. Special interest groups should not be in control of our legislature and especially not educational policies.


That I would agree to an extent, but lets not forget that often times the teachers themselves are part of those "special interest groups" Its well known that a majority of teachers do lean to the left and many of them have tendencies to preach that stance. So it does help to have special interest groups pushing back. For example, its wrong to teach the theory of evolution to every student when some students are religious. Its also wrong to force every student to study religion when they are not religious. If we left the decision up to the the teacher alone, we would then turn into a socilistic state in which whats right and wrong would be determined by one person - the teachers opinion.


RE: Universities overreacting? I think not.
By Spuke on 11/13/2007 12:59:14 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Your argument on that part makes no sense.
Actually it makes sense. If you are caught speeding on campus, YOU get a ticket. Under this new act, if you are caught downloading illegal content, then the SCHOOL doesn't get its money and ALL of the students suffer.

Both are illegal acts but the punishment for one of them is greatly exaggerated. I would say that speeding on campus is worse given the close proximity of students on foot and the possibility of property damage.

Why won't the government retain the schools funding for speeding? Why is downloading illegal content worse than endangering the lives of others?


By clovell on 11/13/2007 5:21:31 PM , Rating: 1
No no - the bill doesn't really say that. It says that if schools don't act to detect and prevent illegal file-sharing as per certain guidelines, they won't get funding. that's very different from cutting off funding to a school who catches a student illegally sharing files.


By tmouse on 11/13/2007 1:44:59 PM , Rating: 2
I just do not see the big thing here. Music "sharing" is illegal no ifs ands or buts. ALL schools have policies regarding illegal activity. In earlier bills schools were required to more formally codify their policies on sexual harassment, drugs ect. Each year they have to supply this information to the students or risk losing their funding. I have seen nothing REQUIRING them to monitor, the excerpt from the article mentions “exploring technology-based deterrents and alternatives" not making it a requirement. It also involves funds for this purpose so it’s no cost to the university. Formally codifying their policy does make them more responsible so I guess that is what is scaring them. Just as companies are responsible for what happens from their own intranets, universities should also be responsible; this is FAR from any intrusion on academic rights.


By soxfan on 11/13/2007 7:31:57 AM , Rating: 2
Policing the internet and policing your own network are not the same thing.


RE: Universities overreacting? I think not.
By erikejw on 11/12/2007 4:25:57 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
Not sure what planet you grew up on. But the facts are facts, if you want to keep getting free money from the government, you better do everything in your power to willingly enforce the laws at hand.


Of course you are right, RIAA and MPAA and media money is so important that student must have education on it at the university.

Petty things like murder, kidnapping, rape, terrorism and other minisculur things should not be tought or be important for university funding.
I understand your concearn.


By clovell on 11/12/2007 4:29:14 PM , Rating: 1
Petty things like murder, kidnapping, rape, terrorism and other minisculur things should not be tought or be important for university funding.


I know lots of colleges that teach a short course in safety during orientation. I don't think anyone is overlooking serious crimes here.


By AntiM on 11/13/2007 2:44:48 PM , Rating: 3
The other thing that alarms me is .... "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."

It's ok that a child dies from a tooth infection because he can't get proper medical care, we have no funding for that, but God forbid that a few highly paid music execs loose a few bucks. Now they're trying to spend our tax money so a college kid can listen to music while he should be studying anyway.

These people are selling shoestrings in a world that's wearing loafers and they want the American taxpayer to pay for their stupidity.

I have a proposal they can put into the bill... outlaw the *selling* of all music. If you intend to make music, you can't charge money for it. And if you don't want your movies stolen, then don't make anymore.


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