from the beware-the-precedents-you-set dept
The bill, in its current form, outlines that eligible institutions "develop a plan for offering alternatives to illegal downloading or peer-to-peer distribution of intellectual property as well as a plan to explore technology-based deterrents to prevent such illegal activity." While advocates emphasize that the only requirement is to plan, the wording leaves the door to state mandated copyright protections in exchange for federal funding wide open... a truly backwards and illogical arrangement. In this case, congressional requirements will most likely take the form of industry-sanctioned DRM initiatives, in addition to network detection/filtering techniques laden with privacy risks and prone to the inevitable backlash of technological countermeasures.
The link between failing to draft plans and eligibility for at least some student financial aid programs is most troubling because it does not address the inherently complex nature of piracy and copyright infringement in the 21st century. Instead it seeks to place the onus on university administrators, who are already in the midst of coming to grips with effective digital threat prevention. Introducing this type of government intervention does nothing to stimulate the desperately needed innovative solutions for the issues at hand. Also, from a policy perspective, the networks on campuses across the country differ mainly in scale from those governed by the likes of the Verizon and Comcast, meaning that a disconcerting and inappropriate model for anti-piracy legislative action is being shaped.
In the same way that universities provide an environment where some of the leading minds of the tomorrow’s society are shaped, specious legislative action that effects their rights as downloaders will impact their expectations of how privacy and civil liberties should be transposed to an increasingly digital world. It shouldn’t be left for the conspiracy theorists to suggest that this will begin the prying open of a Pandora’s Box of well-meaning public policy that falls short due to short-sighted intentions and narrow perspectives on the matters at hand.
Yet, in spite of these frightening possibilities combined with the fact that electronic piracy is fast on its way to becoming a hot-button issue, Congress doesn't appear to have any clue about the inappropriateness of these measures. That means, unfortunately, that it is unlikely they will support any sustained effort to remove the aberrant mandate. There are options that don't resemble placing economic sanctions on institutions of higher learning -- but it doesn't appear Congress is interested in pursuing them any time soon.