Thursday, July 31, 2008

Higher Education Act: US Educators to become copyright police

William Patry is rightly angry at the latest piece of entertainment industry corporate welfare legislation about to get passed by Congress.

" On July 30th, the House and Senate conferees approved the Higher Education Act reauthorization conference report, H.R. Rep. 110-803, to H.R. 4137. The bill, expected to become law soon, includes the College Opportunity and Affordability Act. Some may recall efforts last year to condition federal aid to universities on those institutions employing filtering technology. Senate Majority leader Harry Reid would have also mandated that the Secretary of Education compile a 25 “worst offenders" list of those schools with the highest levels of illegal P2P file sharing. The idea wasn’t original, MPAA had already compiled its the top 25 list."

He goes on to describe the massive fantasy losses story told repeatedly by organisations like the MPAA and then:

"This raises one of the features of Washington DC that rightly baffles those outside the Beltway: how is that a trade association gets an issue so wrong, but then still manages to get legislation passed that addresses a non-problem that the association deliberately concocted? The answer, supplied by Mr. Glickman, is: leadership.

MPAA’s initial efforts were defeated fortunately, and the history of the bill during late 2007 and early 2008 is recounted in a series of very informative posts by Anne Broache for Cnet here , here, and here. Congress, in the bill that just passed, instead of mandating filtering and bad boy lists, mandated various requirements for educators to undertake, all of which involve spouting MPAA and RIAA’s propaganda."

He then goes on to reproduce the Joint Explanatory Statement of the Managers in the Conference Committee report describing the requirements. This basically says students need to be repeatedly threatened about copyright infringement and universities should use controlling technologies (including some from specific named companies) to block such abhorrent behaviour. As Patry says, the statement was probably written by the MPAA. Actually a lot of the text of the bill was probably written by them too.

And remember this legislation is called the "Higher Education Act"!

Once this law has been in place for a while the next step will be the MPAA and RIAA complaining about universities not being good enough copyright police. Then will come the calls for further legislation with more draconian (probably criminal) sanctions for students and university staff and of course mandatory blocking technologies. All backed up with the fantasy business loss figures supposedly showing that these unwashed masses of Net savvy college delinquents are destroying the entertainment business.

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