Gov't Reminds Colleges They Need To Start Taking Money From Students And Sending It To The Entertainment Industry

from the nice-of-them dept

You may remember that the entertainment industry was able to get a nice little clause inserted into the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 that required universities to educate students on the evils of file sharing, to try to block file sharing on campus and also to sign up for “legal” alternatives (i.e., charge students more money to filter it directly to the record labels and movie studios). Yes, you read that right. The law requires universities to push their students to use “legal alternatives,” even to the point of having the university take “activity fees” from students for that purpose From the Department of Education’s website:

34 CFR 668.14(b)(30) also requires that an institution, in consultation with the chief technology officer or other designated officer of the institution, to the extent practicable, offer legal alternatives to illegal downloading or otherwise acquiring copyrighted material, as determined by the institution. An institution must periodically review the legal alternatives for downloading or otherwise acquiring copyrighted material, and make the results of the review available to its students through a Web site or other means.

It was a clear case of the government creating subsidies for the entertainment industry, by taking money away from students and education. It’s difficult to see how anyone can defend such a law. Universities that fail to do this face the possibility of losing financial aid for students. Seriously.

We hadn’t heard much about this in a while, but Michael Scott points us to the news that the Department of Education has started sending out letters reminding universities and colleges that this part of the law goes into effect in July. The letter itself reminds universities of the various requirements to stay on the entertainment industry’s good side. Higher Education Opportunity Act or Subsidize the Entertainment Industry Again Act?

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Comments on “Gov't Reminds Colleges They Need To Start Taking Money From Students And Sending It To The Entertainment Industry”

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Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Is it just me...

“Seriously, how are we supposed to fight the Entertainment industry when they have all the money?”

You really dont have to fight them. This is an attempt to push students who can barely pay for food to pay for content. It is also an attempt to re-educate and train the students to purchase content from the record labels and TV-Movie studios. Its not going to work for multiple reasons the big one is there are other free sources for the same content, the second is students tend to rebel, the third is the universities cant prevent the use of encryption or VPN’s.

But if you want to attack them head on, think outside the box. The law states “offer legal alternatives to illegal downloading or otherwise acquiring copyrighted material” How do we use this to our advantage?

Provide all the universities with …
1- the top 10,000 Creative commons songs.
2- Weekly top 200 CC song.
3- Weekly top 20 CC movies.
4- Weekly top 20 CC shows.
5- a used DVD and CD swapping and sales site.
6- links for every TV studios site plus HULU to watch content online.
7- Create a University based library system for DVD and CD loans.
8- Add in a link for NetFlix subscriptions.
9- Suggestion Area to request new features.
10- Open source and CC books database and library.
11- Free Music area for artists to promote themselves, with voting on quality and social networking links.
12- Content addition area.

Basically use the rules they created against them in a way that removes their profits.

Brian (profile) says:

Re: Is it just me...

Fight them? Your not supposed to fight them, they are your friends who know whats best for you. I even heard that starting January of next year you can setup a special direct deposit with your employer so that your entire paycheck just goes directly to the record and movie studios. This way they get all your money and you can’t be tempted by the evils of file sharing since you won’t have money to pay for an internet connection!

Anonymous Coward says:

“charge students more money to filter it directly to the record labels and movie studios”

This is worse than a tax. A tax is allegedly intended to serve the common good but instead this subsidy only serves a private good that will probably end up using it to sue us and lobby congress to pass more draconian laws that only serve the common detriment.

Steve (profile) says:


Because nothing says “good use of educational funds” like funneling money to record executives and Lars Ulrich. At this point I believe the entertainment industry is trying to act as absurdly as possible. The scary part is how the government supports such policies. I’m not sure when it happened but at some point the government stopped representing the people and started representing big business. Our country’s founders would be sickened by this.

Sheepy (profile) says:

There is no language in that letter suggesting that schools use student tech fees (as a student, I was concerned!), rather that schools must have anti-piracy policies in place that include information about legal alternatives. As one person said, this might include pointing people to Pandora or Hulu. Some universities might opt to get an institutional Netflix streaming account if such a thing exists, but even to this OSS/CC fangirl this post seems to be blowing things out of proportion. The only mention of payment is in regards to fees for noncompliance.

Steve (profile) says:

Re: Re:

But by asking schools to promote “legal alternatives” on behalf of the entertainment industry aren’t schools wasting time and money? The school’s technology staff is still going to be paid by the school to set up systems to push the entertainment industry’s agenda. It’s free advertising for music and movie studios that the school pays for. That is money taken away from eduaction to prop up an outdated and failed business model.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

There is no language in that letter suggesting that schools use student tech fees (as a student, I was concerned!), rather that schools must have anti-piracy policies in place that include information about legal alternatives.

It’s true that the language of the bill does not require them to use student fees, but much of the discussion around the bill was about exactly that situation. The language of the bill is vague enough that to avoid liability, it’s likely that many universities will, in fact, use student funds to signup for campus-wide deals.

SteelWolf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I know my university did this several times even before the legislation was passed. First there CDMagic (or something similarly named), when that fell apart the entire University System of Maryland signed a deal with Ruckus (remember that?). In both cases very, very few students were interested in the services, and all of that student money got wasted. What’s frustrating is that the industry got the money regardless – a sunk cost for us, two consecutive payouts for them.

It’s as though it doesn’t matter whether the service is good or students use it – they just have to convince universities to sign deals so they can collect the money up front. How come we can’t demand a refund?

Sheepy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Which they already do for cable service, magazine subscriptions, etc.

Given the state of most library budgets, I expect that most schools will stick to a once or twice a semester email reminder of policy with links to legal alternatives. *Unless* some of those services do something ridiculous for the campus, which is how my school only sells Pepsi. That to me is a broader question of the ethics of sponsorship, rather than specifically pandering to the media industry.

Mike says:

Re: Re:

ITs more like, since we know you are going to download things anyway– you need to be taxed for that. However, youre still not allowed to do it!

It reminds me of the theft tax that Binghamton Universitys food supplier (Sodexo) charged. They automatically assume students will end up eventually (even if not intentionally) stealing food (or other supplies like napkins and cups). So they were prematurely charged a theft tax when they bought a mealplan (which was required for oncampus students). This isnt giving you PERMISSION to steal, its just assuming you will… and if you get caught stealing a bunch, youll still probably get in trouble.

Anonymous Coward says:

It is a good thing then that universities already have such a “legal alternative” called a library. (Many libraries lend dvds and other media besides just books)

Also, I noticed the section of the law above just says “copyrighted material” which seems kind of open ended. This could mean books, music, movies, photos, video games, just about any other computer software, and a ton of other things that can be copyrighted.

Joel Coehoorn says:

I am the “chief technology officer” at a small college (actual title is “Director of IT”) that received such a letter. We read through the clause and decided that since all students have easy access to iTunes, Amazon mp3, Pandora, and pretty much every other legal music service out there, we had met the requirements in the letter. In other words, we didn’t spend a dime in compliance because, like most other schools, we already comply.

It’s misleading to say that this requires us to spend money that could go to education elsewhere. The only thing it ultimately requires it we not block the legal services.

Now, I know that’s probably not what the entertainment industry had in mind, but that is the text of the regulation.

Joel Coehoorn says:

Re: Re:

Oh, and to add one more thing:

The most telling thing that proves to me at least that this is a non-issue is the spam (or, rather, lack of spam) snail mail for campus music services. My office gets ads come in for every IT-related service imaginable. If there were really a sudden push among schools to roll out campus agreements for these services you’d better believe the competing services would be in full court press on the marketing front right now. Instead… nothing.

net625 says:

Re: quick solution

Ummm, have you actually listened to the radio? The reason I don’t listen to the radio is that the DJ talks to much, says the station name 30 times a minute and they play two songs and then lots of commercials. If you listen to a CD or songs on an portable media player you won’t hear any adds or the name of your device between every song. When the DJ on the radio eventually does get around to playing any music its from a selection of 20-30 songs that I don’t care about.

Jay (profile) says:


Advertising goes into the radio. Then on top of that, they only play 20-30 songs, which the collection agencies take. It must be hard to play just music when the profit is being taken all over the place.

Honestly, it’s enough to make you want to eliminate all of the laws and think back to a time when there wasn’t so much governing our freedoms.

Copper (profile) says:

At the university I current attend, we are required to read a webpage before signing into the college network. That webpage has some information on what is and is not legal in terms of file sharing, and offers a few links to legal alternatives. That’s all they have to do to comply with this law. It’s a minor inconvenience for whatever IT monkey had to code it, but it certainly isn’t “taking money from students and sending it to the entertainment industry.”

Mike Raphone says:

Parasites and Weasels

The parasites and weasels are up to their old tricks. First there was the surcharge on Cassettes that were capable of High Fidelity recording of music whether or not the purchaser used the cassette to record copyrighted material. The proceeds from the surcharge were sent to the Copyright Control Agencies. Next came the surcharge on Music CD ROM’s and Serial Copy Management System. Again the customer was forced to pay a surcharge for CD ROM’s that are coded for use in consumer CD Recorders whether or not the CD ROM’s were used to copy copyrighted material. Furthermore the Serial Copy Management System prevented copying of a copy even if recorded through the analog inputs on the recorder. This is another case where the entertainment industry is using our lawmakers to force students to make payment for something the students may never use. PIGS

Simba7 (profile) says:

“Hi students, this is a radio!. R-A-D-I-O. It’s a legal alternative to illegal downloads. Done.”

Didn’t you miss the memo that the Radio is another form of Piracy, too?

I say, screw the RIAA/MPAA. I’m sick of them turning the U.S. into China where everyone is presumed guilty and everything must be monitored and filtered appropriately.. according to them.

Darryl says:

That is why they are called LAWS - would you prefer a lawless society - or to pick the laws you want to obey ?

Yes, dont you just hate it when a state of Government actively enforce the laws and rules that that are in place to create the society.

I bet that same group of nasty people actually hire people to ensure you do not break the road rules, and hire people to make sure you pay your taxes, and people to make sure you dont rob banks, or kill people.

Im sure they also periodically remind people of what the laws and social expectations are from people.

In this case they are not enforcing the law as such, they are pointing out that it is illegal (under the law), and pointing out that there are legal alternatives for what they want. Just like there are legal alternatives to bank robbing to get money, (like get a job). And you think it would be wrong to make sure those who are breaking the law (whatever law), should not be shown that there are legal and socially correct alternatives ?

They did not “raid” any places, they just gave a gentle reminder. In most cases if there is clear evidence that a crime has taken place, it is encumbent upon the governing body to enforce the same laws for all people.

It is not what you steal, clearly stealing is wrong, and what you steal has little bearing on the act itself.

what do they say,,, “do the crime, do the time”.

What is a crime, it is an act against a specified law.

If there is a law against unauthorised file sharing of copyright material, then that is the end of it, its the law.

And no different than a law to stop you bank robbing, or murder. And its not up to you breaker of the law to determine its damage or severity. Otherwise again, everyone would never actually do any damage, but that is why that decision is not made by the law breaker, (its called taking the law into your own hands, its frowned upon).

Like them or not, laws are laws, they are rules for a society that enables a level of getting along. And you dont get to pick and choose which laws you want to obey or disobey. All you can do, is if you dont like the laws where you are, go somewhere else.

But most people find the existance of laws, and law enforcement makes a place better to live in, not worse.
I cant think of many places that are lawless, that would be that nice to go too, or to live.

So its because those nasty Governments uphold laws, ALL laws thats what makes a place good to live in. Go figure !!!

And the places where there are less laws, or laws are not enforced, they are most often places you dont want to be found after dark…

Anonymous Coward says:

That is why they are called LAWS - would you prefer a lawless society - or to pick the laws you want to obey ?

“If there is a law against unauthorised file sharing of copyright material, then that is the end of it, its the law.” – Darryl

That’s the kind of rationale you can come up when you’ve been homeschooled in Texas and your favourite TV propaganda machine is Fox News.

Let’s see…

“If there is a law establishing slavery, then that is the end of it, its the law.”

“If there is a law against women’s rights, then that is the end of it, its the law.”

“If there is a law in favour of corporations stealing and locking culture from the rest of the society, then that is the end of it, its the law.”

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