Congress Critters Threaten To Pass Laws Forcing Universities To Obey RIAA

from the money-well-spent dept

You may have noticed that the RIAA decided that 2007 was the year that they would try to piss off college students around the country by assuming they were all criminals and making sure that they’re even less interested in supporting legal and authorized music options. The RIAA started out with its “pre-settlement” offers, where it hoped that students accused of file sharing would agree to pay up early, without having a chance to even see or respond to the flimsy evidence the RIAA had on them. Following this, the RIAA convinced some grandstanding politicians to threaten universities that didn’t do more to stop file sharing, even as various universities wondered why it was their responsibility to spend their time and money dealing with the RIAA’s inability to find a new business model.

It appears that the money the RIAA is spending on campaign donations is well spent, however. With the universities not falling into line as expected, Congress held hearings where various politicians blasted universities for not taking a more proactive stance and threatening to withhold federal money from universities that don’t play by the RIAA’s rules. The quotes are stunning for both their ignorance and clear bias from the start. It starts off with Science and Technology Committee Chair Bart Gordon saying that it’s not just about royalties: “It clogs campus networks and interferes with the educational and research mission of universities.” Whether or not that’s true is debatable, but isn’t it up to the universities, not Congress, to decide what to do about it?

Then there was Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner claiming that file sharing “[drives] up the cost of education” without offering a shred of evidence that this is true. Even so, there are lots of things that drive up the cost of education (textbooks and good professors for example), and no one’s complaining about them. Then, when two university representatives gently tried to note the problems with filtering technology (it doesn’t work very well, has many more costs in terms of managing, blocks perfectly legitimate uses and can damage the network) while also daring to point out that this is really a business model issue for the entertainment industry, our wonderful Congressional representatives “accused them of not taking seriously the viability of technological solutions.” Who do you think understands the viability of technological solutions better? The chief information officer for the University of Chicago or a bunch of politicians? It seems clear they had no interest in actually hearing about why such technologies have additional costs, and only wanted to make it known that they were going to start withholding money, no matter what the unintended consequences.

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Comments on “Congress Critters Threaten To Pass Laws Forcing Universities To Obey RIAA”

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MooseDog (profile) says:

think positive

“Who do you think understands the viability of technological solutions better? The chief information officer for the University of Chicago or a bunch of politicians?”

maybe a positive will come out of this hearing, to wit: the cio’s will return home thinking “what a bunch of shills. i’m talking to our lawyers”, who in turn will have the guts to advise a firmer policy vis-a-vis the riaa’s aggressive pursuit of the universities.

The infamous Joe says:


I shave my head solely so I cannot rip out my hair when I hear of the RIAA and their funded antics.

It’s scary that these men, like Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.), were actually elected into office, when he spouts such nonsense as:

“Is it responsible for a Congress that wants to protect intellectual property rights to continue to fund network enhancements for universities if some of those enhancements are indirectly being used in fact to promote intellectual property theft?”

So, if crimes are committed on roads, pull funding on roads, right? Is there a reset button on the government? Oh yeah, the founding fathers wrote one in there for us:

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new guards for their future security..

Also, it mildly amusing that Greg Jackson, chief information officer for the University of Chicago, nailed the DRM on the head, when it seems that the RIAA just can’t understand it. Mr. Jackon’s wonderful quote for your viewing pleasure:

“So long as the right thing remains more daunting, awkward and unsatisfying than the wrong thing, too many people will do the wrong thing,” Jackson said, referring to the digital rights management technology used widely in legally purchased music files.

dazcon5 says:


1. If it’s a private university, the network belongs to them. They decide what traverses the network.

2. It is not the network owners job to protect someone else’s failing business model.

3. It has been said many times before, the RIAA/MPIAA need to have their attitudes adjusted, preferably with a large hammer.

4. If I were a university network admin my response would be a hardy F**K OFF, this is my network! Take your attempts at a money grab and pack sand!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: A reality check

While I find the actions of the RIAA and our ill informed congressmen appalling, when I was in college, the usage of popular file-sharing apps practically brought the state university’s backbone connection to its knees.

The fact that students are using P2P applications is not in it’s self a reason for a crack down. The Universities need to have the infrastructure in place to serve their students (since the students are paying for them to exist). If students downloads can cripple a network, the IT staff needs to be fired for not having systems in place to regulate it.

John (user link) says:

The RIAA is wasting time and precious resources that would be better allocated to improving their business model! How are they going to stop file-sharing once everyone switches to encrypted file sharing? Microsoft’s EFS (Encrypted File System), Freenet, and GigaTribe ( ) are but a few examples and I know there’s even other options to exchange files without a trace.

Phil Bowyer (user link) says:

We need a revolution

I don’t care if you’re a democrat, or a republican– they’re all a bunch of ass-clowns who would rather serve their wallet than the country.

We need a revolution- get rid of every damn one them and start over.

I mean, Ted Stevens is in charge of regulating the Internet– and we all know he’s proved that he doesn’t even know what the Internet is!

Phil says:


Here’s a clear case of calling in the swat team to come and kill a mosquito. Unless it’s bringing down the network, which IT employees should be keeping track of anyway, there’s really no reason to do this. Why deny funding to universities just on the basis of this garbage? The American education system will just become even more inferior than it already is. Perhaps the RIAA should look in the mirror before passing the buck and blaming someone else for their pure greed and money whoring. I don’t exactly see musicians suffering because of P2P file sharing. Maybe they should stop crying foul until musicians have to fire all their house staff, sell most of their 10 cars, and give up their 5 summer cottages around the world just to pay the bills. But until then, BOO HOO musicians aren’t suffering. RIAA should get over it, quit whining, and give people incentive not to resort to file sharing if they think it’s so bad.

Tax Payer says:

Education Investment

Government frequently positions to withhold funding if a group or lower government doesn’t follow its wishes – Highway money is usually the biggest one, where a state won’t get funds if they don’t use a given set of rules for the roads (remember 55mph). Same thing happening here – government is looking for education environment to do their requests and are associating their funding to it being followed. Universities that prefer not to follow and support the requests won’t get the money – simple as that. Certain students may elect to go to those schools as a financial way of showing their support, or donations to those schools from the private sector may actually exceed the amounts they were getting from the government so I think they should definately put the rules in place and let the market and academia decide the outcome.

WJM says:

It ain't the musicians

For those of you who think that the musicians are the ones getting ungodly wealthy on this system, for a VERY small handful that is true. The opposite is actually the truth, here. The musicans are the ones getting screwed the hardest here, because until you are AT that level, you don’t make squat, and in some cses for a while after that.

When TLC was huge, they had tunes on all the charts, had about 5 number ones off the same CD, and do you know that at that time there wasn’t one of them who was making $35K. And who was making those MILLIONS that were coming in? THE LAWYERS at the heads of the companies. That is just one example, there are literally thousands of others.

This is the industry, which has yet to move forward from a 1950’s model, other than screwing the artists even more, scrambling for a way to keep paying their overinflated salaries even if they have to sue THEIR CUSTOMERS to do it. Pretty freaking sad if THAT is what they have for a strategy. And so they have to go and destroy the college system to maintain their graft? Sorry, I wouldn’t mind seeing the RIAA go right down the toilet.

Now if you’ll pardon me, I have to change for my gig tonight, where if I am lucky, I MIGHT make what Charlie Parker was making in 1952 playing in EXACTLY the same kind of places I am now. Damn, there are times I just HATE this business.

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