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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 Spuke on 11/13/2007 2:17:11 PM , Rating: 2
However, until that happens, it is copyright infringement and it is the responsibility of the university receiving federal money to put in efforts to stop the piracy from happening on their intranet.
Yes it will harm people. You continue to miss the point. The point is that focusing these resources into ONE illegal act WILL affect other areas. AND is it really that important to curb illegal downloading to the point where it affects the education of ours students? You keep saying all the schools have to do is put something in place to reduce illegal downloading but you refuse to acknowledge that this bill WILL enable abuse. You can't tell me that the RIAA/MPAA won't STILL go after a school with these precautions in place. The bill doesn't allow for that distinction.

Some school will get sued and have their funding withheld. I say, illegal downloading is already illegal and there are already laws in place to deal with this without possibly destroying education to get it done.

And yes this does have everything "to do with breaking other laws, or what laws you determine to be worse than this" because there are no other laws that the schools are responsible for enforcing that have this much weight.

By clovell on 11/13/2007 5:46:13 PM , Rating: 1
To a certain extent, I agree. I'd rather the consequences were less draconian. I'd also rather that the bill was explicitly limited to mandating good-faith prevention measures and excluded any sort of specific detection of individuals. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

"When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." -- Sony BMG attorney Jennifer Pariser
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