The Next Generation Of Anti-Piracy Legislation Goes To School

from the beware-the-precedents-you-set dept

As discussed a few months ago by Tom Lee, misguided anti-piracy requirements for universities found their way into the College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007. Mostly, the nearly 800-page bill rehashes existing legislation regarding federal financial aid. However, a section titled "Campus-based Digital Theft Prevention" provides an unfortunate glimpse at what could be the new wave of legislation related to network filtering of copyrighted material inside and outside the academic domain, that’s waiting in the wings.

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.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Alfred E. Neuman, Jan 22nd, 2008 @ 6:00pm

    It's time

    It's time for Institutions of Higher Learning to get out of the ISP business. Let the students get their own connections.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 22nd, 2008 @ 6:10pm

    Re: It's time

    Thats really hard, considering quite a few of the universities are also the land lords, power utilities, and telcom providers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Alfred E. Neuman, Jan 22nd, 2008 @ 6:21pm

    Re: Re: It's time

    I have rented before and the landlord did not provide all those amenities. Universities should not act like utilities.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Stuart Weaver, Jan 22nd, 2008 @ 6:29pm

    wait, what?

    "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."

    What does the first part of this statement mean? Offering alternatives to downloading or distribution of illegal content? I keep reading it as meaning "having a plan for users within the university to obtain copyrighted content through legal channels". Which suggests to me images of universities licensing huge chunks of content from movie studios, software houses and so forth. Which couldn't be right....could it?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Jan 22nd, 2008 @ 6:47pm

    Re: wait, what?

    What does the first part of this statement mean? Offering alternatives to downloading or distribution of illegal content? I keep reading it as meaning "having a plan for users within the university to obtain copyrighted content through legal channels". Which suggests to me images of universities licensing huge chunks of content from movie studios, software houses and so forth. Which couldn't be right....could it?

    As we described a few months back, it means corporate welfare for companies like Napster and Ruckus that claim to offer "authorized" music offerings:

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20071115/173305.shtml

    Universities would be *required* to sign up for such services. A huge boost for those companies, but not necessarily anyone else.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 22nd, 2008 @ 10:12pm

    Re: Re: Re: It's time

    they make money off providing those services. It's hard to part the greedy from their money

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Robert, Jan 22nd, 2008 @ 11:37pm

    Re: It's time

    You're joking right? Most schools don't charge that much (mine charged $100 for the year, and had much better speeds than I could get commercially), and they do it because there aren't many other options.

    Seriously, it would end up costing students a lot more if outside vendors had to come into the school and setup the dorms to run on their network, and it would create a huge headache for the school itself. Instead of having a handful of administrators extending the preexisting academic network, they'd have to split the network off. What then, the students would VPN into the school?

    Outsourcing the IT services would be absolutely ridiculous, expensive, and useless. Instead of spending your time arguing that the school should change their own policies in response to the various AA's, spend a minute and email your congressmen to tell him how moronic this piece of the bill is.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Alfred E. Neuman, Jan 23rd, 2008 @ 5:22am

    Re: Re: It's time

    Oh, it's too hard. Never mind then.

    Most people being shot at, tend to duck. But I see you are the brave type willing to take one for the team. Rah.

    I still think the Institutions of Higher Learning should consider a change in the way they do business.

    Congress is pondering legislation which will levy additional conditions upon their funding, usually this would get their attention. Kind of like a shot across the bow. Wow, maybe I should remove this target from my back ..... just a thought though ... do what you like.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Fushta, Jan 23rd, 2008 @ 6:54am

    WiMax at the .edu

    Why don't major universities promote an open WiMax network that is "net neutral" pieced together by non-university ISP connections? Not sure if it would work, but might.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    dorpass, Jan 23rd, 2008 @ 8:14am

    Re: Re: Re: It's time

    Alfred, you are a genius.

    First, you want schools to roll over on stupid legislation because... well, because stupid legislation should rule over reason. Good thinking.

    Second, by your logic, ISPs would have to get out of ISP business as well. You don't see a requirement for them to provide "legal" means for music downloads, but if you apply this ruling to schools, you can apply it to Verizon and Comcast just the same.

    Conclusion: Skipped much of your Higher Learning?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Alfred E. Neuman, Jan 23rd, 2008 @ 6:31pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: It's time

    Dear Dorpass,

    Errrr, what?

    Where did I say roll over, or anything even close? I suggested they get out of the ISP business.

    And where did I state legislation over reason? I suggested they remove the bait.

    ISPs have to get out of business? What sort of axe does Congress have hanging over the ISP? Your logic is quite flawed.

    No, I am not a genius, not by a long shot.
    But then apparently neither are you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    dorpass, Jan 24th, 2008 @ 10:40am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It's time

    "Where did I say roll over, or anything even close? I suggested they get out of the ISP business."

    Schools are doing something that is threatened by the new legislature, you recommend they stop doing it to avoid dealing with the legislature. That is rolling over, giving in to pressure.

    "And where did I state legislation over reason? I suggested they remove the bait."

    By "removing bait" you are validating the reasoning behind idiotic legislature.

    "
    ISPs have to get out of business? What sort of axe does Congress have hanging over the ISP?"

    Same ax they have over colleges: legislature. New restrictions and requirements. If a college as ISP can be required to do one thing, why wouldn't you want to require ISPs to do the same? In case you didn't notice, there is already a push for that.

    You don't have to be a genius, but really, being a moron is not your only other choice.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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