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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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RE: Pot
By Homerboy on 11/12/2007 4:21:30 PM , Rating: 1
Uhh that pot wasn't supplied to the students and controlled by the University. If the University was handing out pot to the students I think the government may cut funding.

HORRIBLE analogy.

RE: Pot
By tim851 on 11/12/2007 5:34:31 PM , Rating: 4
First of all: What university did you attend that supplied students with warez? Call me old fashioned, but we still had to pirate ourselves.

Secondly, it's not a horrible analogy just because you don't get it. It was meant to stress the people are responsible for their own actions.
Universities don't have networks for people to share their stuff. And people have been "stealing" intellectual property since long before every dorm room was online.

It's like guns don't kill people, people kill people. In that vein: Networks don't pirate mp3s, people pirate mp3s. If we can accept that weapons manufacturers aren't responsible for people killing with their products, we should accept that network providers aren't responsible for what people do with them.

RE: Pot
By Homerboy on 11/13/2007 8:59:49 AM , Rating: 2
The point is this is a universities PRIVATE (state funded) network. If that network is being used to break copyright laws and the University is knowingly doing nothing about it, then it is clearly in the states right and responsibilities to stop funding that school.

RE: Pot
By mindless1 on 11/14/2007 5:19:30 AM , Rating: 1
Bullshit. The state has no responsibility whatsoever to stop funding public education in order to cater to a private interest groups' profit concerns.

The clear thing here is that it doesn't really matter what happens after the RIAA/et al chose to stop producing desirable, profitable content, it only matters whether they choose to change their strategy and start producing content people are paying for instead.

"Game reviewers fought each other to write the most glowing coverage possible for the powerhouse Sony, MS systems. Reviewers flipped coins to see who would review the Nintendo Wii. The losers got stuck with the job." -- Andy Marken
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