Earlier this week, we wrote about how Congress had slipped a provision into the Higher Education Act that would require
universities to put in place a plan to have published policies on unauthorized file sharing and to also "develop a plan" to offer "legal alternatives" such as Napster or Ruckus. Of course, some would point out that many file sharing systems, by themselves are
legal. It's just that some people are using them for things that break the law. Really, what this bill represents is a gov't backed subsidy for Napster and Ruckus, forcing colleges to offer them even if their students don't want it. It's not clear, at all, why Congress should be in the business of demanding a particular type of music delivery system be offered on college campuses. The announcement of the bill resulted in plenty of attention, leading the House committee that was debating the Act to distribute a "fact sheet" that is anything but factual. It accused those criticizing the bill of being "supporters of intellectual property theft." That is not the case at all. In fact, it's rather insulting that Congress would automatically assume that anyone who questions why Congress is forcing universities to pay for commercial music distribution systems is a "supporter of intellectual property theft."
Of course, when the committee is calling anyone who opposes such a plan as being a supporter of theft, it's no surprise that they wouldn't take any of the criticisms seriously and moved forward with the bill
without any changes to the controversial section. They also dismissed the claims that universities who don't sign up for Napster or Ruckus would lose financial aid funding, though, that's clearly what the bill allows to happen -- and you know that the RIAA and MPAA (and Napster and Ruckus, for that matter) will push to make it a viable threat.
Either way, it would be nice for Congressional supporters to answer this simple question: Why is it any part of Congress's business to mandate that universities sign up for a commercial music distribution service?