Wednesday, August 06, 2008

US Education Establishments Forced to Play Copyright Cops

In the US a bill has been passed in the House that will empower the secretary of education to withhold federal financial aid money to schools that do not develop and implement solutions to reduce the amount of illegal downloading. The bill now just needs presidential signature.

Schools and Universities now must inform students that they could face civil or criminal charges if they are found to be illegally downloading copyrighted material. They must also develop a file sharing policy and inform the Education Department on the steps taken to prevent and detect illegal file-sharing.

On one hand the schools point out that this is a non funded exercise that they must find funds to cover and on the other hand the bill is welcomed and fully supported by the Copyright organizations such as the Copyright Alliance, the National Music Publishers' Association and the Motion Picture Association of America.

The MPAA claimed that piracy on university campuses accounted for 44% of the movie industry's annual losses to piracy. A claim later found to be grossly inflated and withdraw. The RIAA published a list of top piracy schools but faced serious court setbacks when it tried to develop a site to handle automated settlements. The MPAA also distributed a software toolkit for detecting file-sharing, but was forced to discontinue its distribution when it was discovered that they themselves had broken copyright by failing to adhere to its General Public License under its distribution.
Currently there are no penalties for failing to comply with the requirements but the structure is now in place to implement them and then schools and universities could be denied funding.

The problem is that this is merely just shifting the problem down the line and not addressing any of the core issues. Threatening to withhold funding against an institution who has to combat any illegal peer sharing at their cost is similar to asking ISPs to be responsible for what everyone does on their service. It’s ironic that the bill reaches this stage at a time when the world is watching China and what it allows and doesn’t on the Internet.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't think the threat of criminal or civil prosecution is enough to change a student's download behaviour.

But if the University were to threaten to take away the chance of earning their degree... now that's something that will have them lining up in Borders with their beer money!