Would Congress Withhold Financial Aid From Colleges That Don't Offer A Subscription To Napster?
from the slippery,-slippery-slopes dept
It looks like the media companies are making good on the strategy they floated in June (and seems to have been mulling since at least March). A relatively well-buried section of this year's amendment and extension of the Higher Education Act places new requirements on schools whose students receive federal student aid — requirements that oblige them to lend Hollywood and the record companies a helping hand in their fight against P2P piracy. Needless to say, this is ridiculous. As Carlo's post argues, there's no reason why schools ought to be conscripted into propping up a troubled industry's business model. As you might expect, the copyfighters are incensed by the idea. Fortunately, it doesn't look like the bill (pdf) is quite as bad as they're making it out to be: though the idea may be detestable, its execution in this case is less-than-complete. An affected institution is only required to "make publicly available to their students and employees the policies and procedures related to the illegal downloading and distribution of copyrighted materials" and to "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" — and only to do so "to the extent practicable". It sure sounds like these provisions could be easily satisfied: posting regulations and drawing up a plan (but not necessarily implementing it) simply isn't that much of a regulatory burden. Is it a bad idea? Yes. Is it going to result in swarms of penniless scholars trudging, broken-hearted, away from the academy and toward a lifetime of menial toil? It seems unlikely.
Still, it would be a mistake to ignore the inappropriateness of the requirements, or the slipperiness of the slope we're presently on. This is, after all, an industry that's perfected the art of regulatory capture to such an extent that it could now be better described as regulatory taxidermy. If congress can be convinced to repeatedly hand our copyright system over to industry, there's little reason to doubt that it's willing to throw in the education system, too.